“Women, this is your son! There is your mother.” (John 19:26-27)
“Who are my mother and my brothers? … Whoever does the will of God is brother and sister and mother to me.” (Mark 3: 33, 35) Jesus put this question and He himself gave the answer. The meaning of family, for Jesus, now have changed. It does not include only relatives by birth or by marriage or as might be understood by the broad Jewish concept of extended family, but now it includes all believers particularly those who do God’s will. All people were to be bound to God’s family.
Also Jesus was always surrounded by his group of disciples who might have been considered also to be his “new family”. But when things started getting too rough for comfort this “new family” got unsettled and disturbed. By the day of his crucifixion almost all of them had either run away, or denied him or abandoned him. Jesus Christ was alone to face his trial and death.
Only Mary, his Mother and John, his beloved disciple followed him and stood under his cross along with a couple of pious women. To his Mother and to John, Jesus assigned to them an ongoing relationship not based on bloodlines but on love. In John’s gospel we read: When Jesus saw the Mother, and the disciple, He said to the Mother, “Woman, this is your son.” Then He said to the disciple, “There is your mother.” (John 19: 26-27)
What is the meaning of family? For some, family means the people that they were raised with, those who accept them, who share their lives with them and who understand them even without saying much or anything. For others, family might also be people who are not related to them through birth, but people who might be surrogate parents, friends who replace siblings and other relatives. With the latter the bond that unites them is love and not bloodlines.
Hanging on the cross, Jesus saw below him two of those people in his life: Mary and John. Mary, being his Mother, was related to Jesus through birth, whereas John was related to Him through love. The two of them were related to each other also through love.
They stayed with Jesus through his suffering in fidelity and empathy. As his parting words, Jesus entrusted each to each other thus expanding their understanding of family. To his Mother He entrusted his friend as her son, while to his friend He entrusted His own Mother as his new Mother.
Family is more than a relationship through birth. Take a look at your life. Are there people who cherished you and cared for you as a parent would have done? Are there people who cared about you, who listened to you when you felt down and dejected? Are there people who stayed beside you through thick and thin, no matter what? Are there individuals whom you might refer to them as the “brother” or “sister” you never had?
These people accept us as we are, regardless of our grouchiness and selfishness. These people become our family through their love, steadfastness, forbearance and sympathy.
As Christians, we also have to regard the family from a wider perspective. If we want to be true followers of Jesus, like Him, we have to include all people and treat them as our brothers and sisters. In the person of Jesus there are united all cultures, all experiences. “Whoever does the will of God is brother and sister and mother to me.”
“…this is your son.” We are responsible not only to provide food to our children, but also to those who go hungry every day in our country and in other countries, far and near, no matter the colour of their skin, or the belief that they profess.
“There is your mother.” We love, accept, welcome and support all classes of people whether they are like us, or not… rich or poor… believers or non-believers… attractive or disgusting… young and old… We love, accept, welcome and support all.
In all this we are sustained and motivated by God, the Father, the Parent, with whom we have been bound since we were being carried in our mother’s womb. This loving and wonderful God is bound to us in love and protection, and as St. Paul writes to the Romans: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Will it be trials, or anguish, persecution or hunger, lack of clothing, or dangers or sword? … I am certain that neither death nor life, neither angels nor spiritual powers, neither the present nor the future, nor cosmic powers, were they from heaven or from the deep world below, nor any creature whatsoever will separate us from the love of God, which we have in Jesus Christ, our Lord. (Romans 8: 35, 38, 39)
We are all one big family. We are brothers, sisters and parents in Christ Jesus. There are your mothers. There are your sons. There is Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God, the Saviour of us all.
You are not alone in the world, welcome to the family.