Scripture: Lectionary 318: II Samuel 1:1-4.11-12.19.23-27. Psalm 80:2-3.5-7. Mark 3:20-21
Mark’s Gospel may have been written in Galilee for it is he who gives us some of the scenes with his kin (brothers and sisters who are cousins). Some of the texts are harsh in the picture we have of the relationship he has with them or with his neighbors. Today’s short excerpt is an example of this. We may ask about the two scenes in which his mother is mentioned in 3:31-35 and 6:1-6. These scenes are the closest we come to some knowledge about Jesus and his family and how they feel about his activities.
A key to understanding Mark is that his interest is primarily and almost entirely interested in Jesus and not in those around him and this includes his family. The scene in 3:31-35 could seem to be anti-Marian and the title Son of Mary a polemic against Jesus mother as not having been married. We Catholics have a strong and wholesome tradition about Mary that has been strengthened by the teachings of the Church in the dogma of Mary’s perpetual virginity. Our tradition about this outstanding woman is always positive.
Mark does not stand up to critical investigation about Mary since he has so little information about her and is always centering on what he has heard or written on his own about her. In today’s passage the translation offered is not the only one possible. The ones who are out of sorts or out of their minds could be the crowd if we analyze the ambiguity of the phrase used for those who are with him on this occasion. Rather than the focus on the family, it could be that the throng or crowd is going crazy, not Jesus. We should not psychologize the text as saying it is anti-family or the others as anti-Marian. For example, though the term Son of Mary doesn’t mention Joseph it could mean the same as the expression Son of Man in the sense Jesus was definitely born of the young woman named Mary of Nazareth. We cannot base the perpetual virginity on this text of Mark but we can compare what the other Gospels say about Mary and her virginity is upheld by both Matthew and Luke and John has Mary standing by the Cross without any mention of other family members. Mary is definitely a positive figure in the other Synoptic Gospels. All three of the Evangelists who knew Mark well and used his narratives did not interpret this text in a negative way. Nor should we. We have Scripture, Tradition, and the Magisterium affirming the greatness of this woman called the Mother of Jesus. Luke gives us the most complete portrait of her.
Mark is narrating the beginnings of Jesus’ Galilean ministry in these first three chapters. We have seen in chapter one that Jesus proclaims the kingdom of God and repentance or a turning toward God and the preaching of the kingdom. Then we have the controversies that arise against him in chapter two. Chapter three is a continuation of these pericopes that show the intense hostility toward Jesus and Mark is, so to speak, covering all of the bases in also saying that Jesus is also being said to be possessed!
The situations are all framed in the overall theme of the Lord’s Passion and Death and the hint of the Resurrection in Mark. Mark is well known as the Gospel of the Cross and the Gospel that shows the cost of discipleship on our part. This has some theologians and exegetes saying that Mark is an extended Passion Narrative and these chapters before the fixed tradition of the Passion in Mark are a preface to the Passion Narrative. One German exegete says, “In the beginning was the Passion.” He is undoubtedly referring to Mark. Another exegete has eliminated the Infancy Narratives in his commentary. That is why we need the balancing of the Tradition and the Teaching of the Church to offset the interpretations of those who deal just with the written scripture and the historical critical dimension.
C.F.D.Moule gives us a balanced interpretation of the passage we are just beginning today: “…Jesus resolutely follows God’s call; his true relations, he says, are those who obey God. It must have been unspeakably costly to both him and his mother when he made this hard decision. It is clear, that according to Mark, Jesus’ mother and brothers failed at this stage to understand him. But his resolute determination was justified: they understood afterwards, and Acts 1:14 shows them, after the resurrection, assembled with the other disciples in Jerusalem.” (Cambridge Bible Commentary on the New English Bible: The Gospel according to Mark, page 31). Mary learned throughout her life the cost of her discipleship. Today she shows us the best example of discipleship having followed Jesus so to speak from his conception, birth, silent days at Nazareth, to his sufferings and death. Amen.