Who is my Mother?
The question, “Who is my Mother and who are my brothers and Sisters?” was put by Jesus to the one or the crowd who informed him that his mother and brothers and sisters are outside and wish to speak with him.
The Provenience of Jesus
The passage forms part of the conscious effort of the evangelists to deal with the question of who Jesus is and his provenance which is at the background of the entire gospel. We find this thought highlighted by how the people think of Jesus clearly reported by the evangelists in almost similar words: Someone told Jesus “Your Mother and your brothers are looking for you…” In the thought of the crowd there is complete dissociation from Christ, they have no bond, no understanding of who Jesus is. Few chapters further in the gospel of Mark, the town’s people of Jesus makes similar demonstration of “too-well” knowledge of Jesus, “This is the Carpenter, surely the son of Mary, the brother of James and Joset and Jude and Simon” (Mk 6,3) knowledge that becomes an impediment to accepting Jesus and submitting oneself to him is not knowledge at all. Knowledge that excludes from the message of salvation is dead knowledge. The people claim to know Jesus so well. The evangelists refute this knowledge as limited and prejudiced of him and show that historical, biological, cultural or religious knowledge of Jesus is insufficient and cannot give access to true knowledge-relationship of faith in Him.
Although Mary reveals the nature or mystery of the child in her womb, she made no direct claim of him, but “pondered in her heart all that is said of him” and gave God thanks for choosing her into the salvation plan. It is probably for this, that she remained outside, she did not dare to come in or interrupt the message he was giving. Mother of Jesus never grew in over-familiarity with her Son Jesus, but endless adoration and contemplation. We must learn from her the right approach to Jesus, true worship and reverence.
The second moment is Jesus response: “Anyone who does the will of God, that person is my brother and sister and Mother” (Mk 3,35). Jesus had spoken of himself at other times as one whose food is to do the will of God (Jn 4, 34). Christian tradition attributes the saying of the Psalmist, “I have come to do your will” (ps.40) as speaking about Christ’s supreme sacrifice of himself. Thus, Jesus shows his divine nature, and association with him must in the very great act of setting the primacy of God over their lives. In this, Jesus reveals the uniqueness role relationship of the Mother of Jesus. Mary is Mother –the Church has always taught her as the New Eve –, undid what the old Eve did through her disobedience,through her obedience to the will of God. Mary became thus, the Mother of all those who to live by the will of God, mother of the church, of all the believers.
The passage is often quoted by those who claim deny Mary is the mother of Jesus. They flimsily interpret it as evidence that Mary had other children whom Jesus refers to as “my brothers and my sisters”. But it is a well-known fact, that both in Jewish tradition, as well as African culture and some others cultures, the concept of “brother or sisters” is not limited to blood relation but is used in a wider sense to embrace, extended family members like cousins, even clan relations are referred as brother or sisters.
The New Family of Jesus
The evangelist Mark builds within this passage the bond binding the new family which Jesus was gathering around him. This is obvious from his list “Your Mother, brothers and sisters”. What he intends to underline here is that Jesus does not despise family relations but the new family of Jesus is not determined by the “usual, old” ties. In Matthew, the focus isthe criteria for belonging to the new community of believers. The criteria surpass the usual blood affinities, tribal, religious affiliations or any other criteria.To hear the Word and do it is to participate in the very life of Christ and automatically become one, “My Mother, My brothers and My Sisters.”
The audience to whom Jesus addresses this question comprises a wider reality: the scribes and the Pharisees, (Mt 12,38); the crowd (Mk 3, 32); many people including the sick and sinners (Mk 3,15). Mark is conscious of and wants to underline the fact that Jesus did not surround himself with his family members or relatives, but sought for collaborators in his mission, those who sincerely seek and recognize the presence of God in Christ Jesus. Jesus explains that those who belong to him is and must be on the bases of their openness, to HEAR the will of God and to DO it. He sets the criteria for all times for his disciples, that is, the church to follow. We are gathered by Christ for his mission, we belong to our religious family, to the church because we all called by Him and equipped by faith to live in God’s will. No other criteria hold! We must recognize in each other the spirit of Christ who has made us one for his mission.
What is Mary, the Mother of Jesus’ response to this question: “Who is my Mother?” We find in her song of magnificat, what her response is, “The Almighty has done great things for me, Holy is his name”(Lk 1,49). Mary, acknowledges that her vocation to be mother to Jesus, the Son of God is not of her own power but God’s grace. She is mother, because, she gave herself totally to God’s Will made manifest through her fiat, - “let me done to me according to your word”. She, thus, became the first disciple, because, she not only listened but obeyed to the letter what she has said Yes to. If the person of Jesus and his provenance is to be understood, the role of Mary in the plan of salvation need be clarified and understood as well. Mary is mother not as a result of physical birth to Jesus, but fundamentally because, she is the woman who chose and lived the will of God and made it her food. Hers, is a universal motherhood to all those who believe.
Jesus teaches this in wedding at cana where he calls Mary, “Woman” recognizing her, mother of all the living, of the believing Church. The Angel’s greeting confirms the true nature of her motherhood, “You have found favour with God” (Lk 1,28) "Who can find favour before God” The Psalmist says, “whoever lives blamelessly, who acts uprightly, and speaks the truth from the heart” (Ps 15,2). Mary, the mother of Jesus, embodies and fulfills the truth contained in this psalm.
Sr. M. Juliana Okafor (Nigeria-Ibadan)
13 September, 2019