24 January
Mk 3:31-35

Jesus’ mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, ‘Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.’ And he replied, ‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’ 34And looking at those who sat around him, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.’

If indeed Jesus’ family thought he was mad (see yesterday’s reading), then they belonged to those who “stood outside.”  Belonging to the same family or race as Jesus does not make one a disciple (see Mt 3:9).  Not that, but doing the will of God. This was the passion of his life; anyone who was not part of that was not part of him.  In the agony of Gethsemani he was able to say, “Not my will but yours be done.”  In him the passion to do the Father’s will was deeper than death; it is not surprising then that it should also be deeper than birth and natural life. 

How many things are deeper than birth and death?  Or more practically, what would I live and die for?  “Nothing to live or die for,” sang John Lennon, imagining an ideal world.  It was a negative ideal.  Ideals can be a crushing weight, and they make us painfully aware of our own fragility.  When Vincent McNabb was asked in Hyde Park, London, what he would do if he was faced with martyrdom, he replied, “I’d probably deny the Faith immediately!”  He knew that in the real world, as distinct from the ideal, everything is grace when it comes to the crunch.  “Nothing to live and die for” is not a description of an ideal world but precisely the opposite: a world without an ideal.  Better to be a failure (under grace) in the real world than to imagine one where it is impossible to fail because there is nothing at which to succeed. 


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This page gives a very brief commentary by Donagh O’Shea on the gospel reading for each day of the month. 


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