As far back as the first century, Pope St. Clement raised questions about human behavior that remain pertinent for the Church today: “Why is there strife and anger and disunion among you? Have we not one God, one Christ? . . .Why do we rise up against our own body in such madness? Have we forgotten that we are members of one another?”
Jesus makes a similar point in today’s Gospel when the crowd around him seems to suggest he is neglecting his own family. He asks, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” I doubt that Jesus doesn’t recognize his own kin, or worse, wishes to disown them. It is his way of reminding us that, through him, we become members of a larger family, the human family. Within that framework, it matters little what language one speaks, where one was born, and of what gender, race, or economic level.
It is apt that we hear this Gospel on the feast of St. Francis de Sales, a 17th-century bishop of Geneva, then a decidedly Calvinist city. St. Francis was known for his gentle approach to the religious divisions of his time and his concern for the spiritual direction of the laity.
Today, as we walk the aisles of a grocery store, stroll down a street, sit in a park or at our work desks, can we stop and gaze into the eyes of those we meet? Can we say as Jesus did, “Here is my mother or father, my sister or brother”? Can we, like St. Clement and St. Francis de Sales, seek to gently unite people?