Yesterday my sister forwarded an e-mail message she had received from our cousin Chris from Australia that included a family photo from 2013, celebrating the 99th birthday of the patriarch, whose wife (only 93 years young) sat beside him. Now Aunt Dory is the last survivor from that generation. The picture is symbolic of a happy reconnection with the Australian branch of our family that began during “The Troubles” in Ireland in the 1800’s. Two of my grandmother’s elder sisters accompanied a childless neighbor couple to Australia to become a family with a chance for a better life – a huge sacrifice for my great-grandparents but a blessing for the two girls. As I scanned the photo trying to see in the 60-something cousins vestiges of the children whose pictures we kept in shoeboxes with our own during my young life nostalgia settled in and I vowed to rekindle my correspondence with my cousin Rosemary, sitting there with her husband, children and grandchildren. The internet will make reconnection easier; I hope I will keep my promise.
Things are different now than in the time of Jesus – as well as in the generations before my parents. People were more often born and buried in the same town and it was rare for families to live as far apart as we do now. My nuclear family is a good example. In the years before my parents’ deaths we were one each in New York State, Virginia and California with two in Florida. for a close family like ours that was and is quite a challenge. Our lives have been full and primary commitments keep us busy. Visits are rare but we continue to value the successful jockeying of schedules that brings us together.
I think all of this helps me to understand the situation of Jesus (MK 3:31-35) when the crowd around him said that his mother & siblings were outside to see him. His response of “whoever does the will of God is my brother, sister and mother” points up to me the willingness of Jesus to follow the path before him, the mission he had been given, with an understanding of right relationship. He did not send his relatives away; my guess is that they had a wonderful visit after the crowd had dispersed. I think what he was saying to the crowd was something like this: “Pay attention to what you’re doing and do it until you finish. Then do the next thing fully – bringing your entire self to the moment. In that way nothing is wasted and no one is ignored.”