Rev. John P. Cush is a priest of the Diocese of Brooklyn. He serves as Academic Dean and as a formation advisor at the Pontifical North American College, Vatican City-State. Fr. Cush holds the Doctorate in Sacred Theology (STD) from the Pontifical Gregorian University, where he also teaches as an adjunct professor of Theology and U.S. Catholic Church History. He has served as a parish priest, high school seminary teacher, and as a Censor Librorum for his Diocese, as well as a theological consultant for NET TV. Fr. Cush is a regular contributor to the Brooklyn Tablet and the Albany Evangelist.
We read in the 10th chapter of the Gospel of Mark:
The mother of Jesus and his brothers arrived at the house.
Standing outside, they sent word to Jesus and called him.
A crowd seated around him told him,
“Your mother and your brothers and your sisters
are outside asking for you.”
But he said to them in reply,
“Who are my mother and my brothers?”
And looking around at those seated in the circle he said,
“Here are my mother and my brothers.
For whoever does the will of God
is my brother and sister and mother.”
The words of this Gospel convey a curious message: namely that those who follow Christ, those about whom we hear in Mark’s 10th chapter who have left behind everything and followed the Way of the Lord Jesus, are in fact his “mother and brothers and sisters.”
Of course, when we hear Our Lord’s question, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” we should not think Our Lord as an amnesiac. He certainly knows and reveres his Immaculate Mother, Mary. He certainly knows who his relatives are. Recall that earlier in this chapter from Mark that we read of the Lord’s rejection in his mission and in his very person and we read earlier from Mark 3 this line: “When his relatives heard of this they set out to seize him, for they said, ‘He is out of his mind’” (Mark 3:21). This later leads the Lord to proclaim, after his rejection in Nazareth, after preaching in his hometown synagogue, “A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house” (Mark 6:4).
What Our Lord is telling us with his specific use of “Who are my mother and my brother?” and his declaration, while gesturing to those who have come to follow him, that “Here are my mother and my brothers” is followed by his next line, “Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”
Who are those who come to follow Christ? It is the poor, the lame, the destitute, the downtrodden. It is the lepers whom he is healing and the blind, and as he goes along, he warns them not to tell anyone what occurred as the Messianic Secret. Who are those who come to follow Christ? It is also the rich, the talented and the beautiful. Who are those who are his brothers and sisters? Simply put, it is the Church. To quote James Joyce on who is the Church, “Here Comes Everybody.” He who is the Kingdom of God in his very person incorporates all those who leave all behind and follow him into his very Body, the Church. The Lord Jesus makes those who do the will of God corporately into his Mystical Bride, the Church.
By our baptism into Christ, we are his family; no, even more so, we who received the Body of Christ, the Eucharist, become the Body of Christ, the Church. He is the Bridegroom and we the Bride. And as his family, no, even more so, as his Body, as his Bride, the Church, what then is our familial inheritance?
The Evangelist Mark tells us in his 10th chapter: Jesus said, “Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the gospel who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age: houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come. But many that are first will be last, and [the] last will be first.”
This is our inheritance as the mother, the brothers, the sisters of Jesus — nothing less than what Christ himself possesses, nothing less than what he lived, died and rose again to give us: everlasting life. Live as part of his family.