02 August 2007

Mama 'n 'em

Blessed Jane Aza: 1 Peter 4.7-11 and Mark 3.31-35
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
Albert the Great Priory, Irving, TX

Listen here!

Why is it that every time I hear Jesus say, “Who are my mother and my brothers?”—I hear another, louder, distinctly feminine voice from behind the crowd yell at him, “I’ll tell you who your mother is!” And then I see a large cast iron skillet soaring through the air and pinging Jesus right upside his head! Obviously, Jesus did not consider himself a southern boy. No southern boy in his right mind would 1) leave his mama and brothers standing outside the house and 2) question the identity of his mama where she could hear him! Who knows? Maybe Mark diplomatically skipped over the part of the story where Mary said to Jesus, “Boy, who do you say that I am? I brought you into this world, and I can take you out of it!” Perhaps being a Jewish son is more like being a Southern son than I realized. . .regardless, far greater than mere genetics or civil law is the One Who makes us family to one another, making us brothers and sisters in Truth if not DNA.

Our love for one another through the Love of the Father and our obedience to His will for us, binds us indestructibly together into a tribe, a nation, a people, and a priesthood. For the better of our nature this means we are given the glad duty of serving one another in Christ’s name for his greater glory. For the darker pieces of our nature, we are given the law—human and divine—to carve our a place in this world relatively free from violence and violation, free from forced obligation and manipulation, a time and place when and where we can truly be children of the Most High, “generous distributors of [our Father’s] manifold grace[s].” For us to be proper franchises of the gospel’s excellent news for the world, “[our] love for one another must be constant” and all we do and say and leave undone and unsaid must course out of us “with the strength provided by God. Thus, in all of [us] God is to be glorified through Jesus Christ…!”

I was kneeling at the journal rack, reaching for a copy of the latest edition of the American Poetry Review. The guy standing next to me was listening to someone on his cell phone. I heard him say in a lost voice, “Yea, I’m alone.” And then, “At Barnes & Noble. Bored.” I wanted to stand, snap his cell phone in half, and tap him vigorously on the forehead, saying: “You are in a huge, seriously crowded bookstore, stocked with every conceivable kind of knowledge—art, poetry, science, philosophy—and you stand there and admit that you’re alone and bored!?” Exactly, bored and alone. And rather than risk an unregulated conversation with a person in person, he dials an easy voice on his cell and maintains the detachment his lazy spirit requires to feel safe, unviolated by any obligation to risk meeting someone else’s blessing or hurt or loneliness. Bored and alone: empty in the presence of Self and Other.

Christ did not come to us to entertain us and keep us company. It is not the purpose of the Church, his Body, to provide social activities and age-appropriate fun in order to stave off boredom and unwanted solitude. It is the purpose of the Church to make real, to give substance to abstracted love and mercy, to fill up the Body with vigorous service done in His name, to lure in and capture the empty hearts and wandering minds of our increasingly distracted and alienated people, to teach them and preach to them the Word of God’s gift of forgiveness and eternal life. Our focus is here and now AND then and there, “on earth as it is in heaven!” Jesus couldn’t be clearer or more forceful: “Whoever does the will of God is brother and sister and mother to me.” Family in Truth if not in DNA; family bound in obedience to one Father, giving service to one another in His name, for His glory!


  1. Anonymous3:30 PM

    beautiful...and the biscuits are good lookin' too.

  2. Wow, a zinger of a post, Father! I'd give anything to hear it on a Sunday morning. It's an antidote to the usual pre-processional welcomings of guests from, as is said, other "faith communities," around the banquet table, as the cantor primes the congregation to sing, "Gather Us In" or "All Are Welcome."

    --John Hetman
    Niles, IL