As Christians, we need a broader vision of family
A Reflection for Saturday of the Twenty-seventh Week in Ordinary Time
Find today’s readings here.
While Jesus was speaking, a woman from the crowd called out and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts at which you nursed.” He replied, “Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.” (Lk 11:27-28)
The woman in the crowd must have been a Catholic. Why else would she heap such recognition and honor on Mary, the Blessed Virgin, Our Lady? I can hear her saying, “Mary certainly did something right with that one!”
When we encounter greatness in others, it’s not uncommon to wonder where it came from. And our natural instinct is to look to the parents or immediate family for an explanation. As Catholics, we’ve always valued and promoted family life because we believe that fidelity, stability and love in a family—though never guaranteed—are a basic recipe for human flourishing.
As Catholics, we’ve always valued and promoted family life because we believe that fidelity, stability and love in a family—though never guaranteed—are a basic recipe for human flourishing.
Which is why it’s so interesting to me that Jesus seems to challenge these traditional family values. When the woman acclaims his biological connection to Mary, he responds by rebutting her: “Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.” What are we to conclude about Jesus’ views on the family other than that our relationship to God is much more important?
With that said, we know that Mary is the greatest witness to hearing God’s word and observing it. Think back to Mary’s response to the angel at the beginning of Luke’s Gospel when she learns she will give birth to a very special child: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” (Lk 1:38)
Beyond biology, what connects Mary and Jesus is their intimate relationship with God and their commitment to living it out. Part of that relationship with God requires us to deconstruct any exclusivist understanding of traditional family values. For Jesus, our relationship to God unites all of humanity into one family. This broader vision of family, beyond our biological relations and narrow tribal instincts, is our most traditional family value as Christians.