Sermons

III Pentecost

June 10, 2018

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. AMEN.

For nearly two thousand years, the Church has looked to the Blessed Virgin Mary as the greatest example of someone who was willing to give all to the Lord.  The collect for the Feast of the Visitation (which we celebrated just two weeks ago) sums it up well:

“Father in heaven, by whose grace the virgin mother of thy incarnate Son was blessed in bearing him, but still more blessed in keeping thy word: Grant us who honor the exaltation of her lowliness to follow the example of her devotion to thy will; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth
with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.”

Mary was obviously at the Birth of Jesus, but she was also at His death on the cross.  When all but one of the disciples was hiding with fear, the Mother of our Lord was there at the foot of the cross.  She was also with the women who went to the tomb to anoint His Body.  She was likewise with the disciples when they were in prayer between the time of the Ascension and the day of Pentecost.

Could we find a Mother with more devotion and love than Mary had for her son, Jesus?  This is why I am always taken aback when I read what we find at the end of our Gospel lesson for today.  St. Mark writes:

“And his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside they sent to (Jesus) and called him.   And a crowd was sitting about him; and they said to him, ‘Your mother and your brothers are outside, asking for you.’   And he replied, ‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’  And looking around on those who sat about him, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother, and sister, and mother.’”

I have often wondered how painful it might have been for Mary to have been told the message that Jesus had sent to her.  How would she have heard these words?  She could very well have heard them to be, “I have no mother, these followers of mine are my mother.”  That would have been painful to hear.

It could very well have been that Mary was so devoted to the will of God that to hear these words from Jesus could have only re-enforced her belief in her Son as the One who had come to save the world.  But just as Jesus was fully human and felt the pain of Judas’ betrayal and Peter’s denial, I can imagine that Mary must have found at least a little sadness in what (at least on the surface) was a rejection of her Motherly relationship with Jesus.

On the other side of the equation, Jesus was someone who did not ask anyone to do something that He Himself was not willing to do.  We know that Jesus asks us to give up everything for Him.  He does not spare even our deepest, closest relationships.  Later in his Gospel, St. Mark writes:

“Jesus said, ‘Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel,
who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.’”

But did you notice what Jesus did?  He does what God always does.  God asks us for something, but then gives it back to us, but filled with sacramental significance.  Look at the sacraments that the Lord has given to the Church –

We give water, Jesus gives forgiveness of sins.  We give oil, Jesus gives healing.  We give bread and wine, and Jesus gives us Himself.  It is true for the sacrament of Marriage.  The couple gives their relationship of love to the Lord and the Lord makes them one in ways that the world cannot understand.

So, too, if we are to read this passage through to the end, it is with our relationships: “Jesus said, ‘Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.’”

So perhaps when Mary heard the words of Jesus, “‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’  …‘Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother, and sister, and mother.’”  Perhaps Mary understood that Jesus was not turning away from His relationship with her, but was instead taking it to a different, sacramental, level.  For perhaps it was not until that moment that Mary had not experience her relationship with Jesus not only as son but as Lord.

Jesus asks us to give up everything for Him – including our most treasured relationships.  But just as He always does, He gives them back to us filled with grace and truth – He makes them a sacrament to us.

Are we ready to give everything to Jesus?  Are we ready to receive the gifts of grace that will be given when we do so?  AMEN.