A Larger and Tighter Circle

St. Marianne Cope (USA)

Mark 3:31-35

We live in circles of relationships:  family, friends, school, work, sports team, happy hour, etc.  Some of these circles intersect, some are tangential and others are completely separate from one another.  We are born into some circles, while others are more voluntary.  One of our major tasks in life is learning how to move and negotiate between them, especially if one or the other makes a primary or exclusive claim on us.

We live in an age when the more traditional definitions or understandings of family are increasingly challenged, sometimes for ideological reasons but often because people’s experiences and realities simply don’t square with those traditional ideas.  At the same time, there is a fundamental human desire to belong to someone and something bigger than themselves. 

In the gospel passage for today’s Mass, Jesus invites those gathered around him to rethink their understandings of family and what it means to be related to him.  However, he doesn’t dismiss or discount the mother and brothers who want to see him. He doesn’t kick them out of his circle.  Instead, he makes the circle bigger by including everyone “who does the will of God.”  While enlarging the circle, he also makes it tighter:  fulfilling God’s will doesn’t allow us to do whatever we want.  It makes concrete demands on us, not the least of which is discerning what God’s will really is!  We can choose to step outside the circle of life in Christ just as easily—sometimes a lot more easily—as choosing to step or stay inside it. 

There’s an old saying that “blood is thicker than water.”  As Christians, however, we believe that for committed disciples the waters of Baptism are thicker than blood:  they draw us closer to Christ and to one another in a circle that transcends not only race, gender, age and nationality but also space and time.—JC