The Second Saturday in Ordinary Time
We’ve all heard it before: “He is out of his mind”. Some people will say that about anyone who happens to say or do something out of the ordinary. Jesus’ relatives were only spouting the conventional wisdom about someone who acts in ways that can only be explained by faith. The typical response has always been, “he is out of his mind”, and you can get the same response whenever anyone announces that he’s going to spend the rest of his life with a bunch of vegetarian bachelors who are really into getting up at three in the morning every day to pray. Even if you calmly explain that these people happen to be the salt of the earth (as this community is), unless people have faith, they’re not going to get it. They’re still going to think, “he’s out of his mind”.
What’s interesting in this morning’s Gospel is that St Mark does not include Mary among these unbelieving relatives. When she is present, he makes a note of it, as he does ten verses later when he says, “The mother and brothers of Jesus arrived”.
There’s a theological reason for that. Mary did have faith. She always believed that the promises of the Lord would be fulfilled, even when she didn’t understand. When she and Joseph found Jesus in the Temple when he was 12 years old, St Luke says that “they did not understand what he said to them”, and that seems to have been the case during most of Mary’s life on earth. She fully “understood”, together with the other disciples, only in the light and grace of Pentecost; until then, she could only trust and obey.
What sustained Mary throughout her life is the same thing that sustains us: faith. With faith, the new life can begin. It grows when we rely not on our own reason and strength, but on God’s Word and grace. As soon as faith diminishes, we become like Jesus’ relatives: we fall back on the conventional wisdom of our time.
We always need faith, and the longer we live, the better we realize how much we need faith because then we have a better idea of how little we know of human existence, apart from what God has revealed to us.
So let us ask Mary, the woman of faith, to pray for us who still walk by faith and not by sight, so that we too may be filled, when we awake, with the sight of God’s glory.