January 20, 2014

January 20, 2014: Fraternal Correction


Week 2: Getting to know the Holy Family
MISUNDERSTOOD: Did Jesus have brothers and sisters?

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“He came to his native place and taught the people in their synagogue. They were astonished and said, ‘Where did this man get such wisdom and mighty deeds?  Is he not the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother named Mary and his brothers James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas? Are not his sisters all with us? Where did this man get all this?’”
Matthew 13:55-56

“His mother and his brothers arrived. Standing outside they sent word to him 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.’”
Mark 3:31-35

“The deepening of faith in the virginal motherhood led the Church to confess Mary's real and perpetual virginity even in the act of giving birth to the Son of God made man. In fact, Christ's birth ‘did not diminish his mother's virginal integrity but sanctified it.’ And so the liturgy of the Church celebrates Mary as Aeiparthenos, the ‘Ever-virgin.’”
Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 499

“Against this doctrine the objection is sometimes raised that the Bible mentions brothers and sisters of Jesus. The Church has always understood these passages as not referring to other children of the Virgin Mary. In fact James and Joseph, ‘brothers of Jesus,’ are the sons of another Mary, a disciple of Christ, whom St. Matthew significantly calls ‘the other Mary’. They are close relations of Jesus, according to an Old Testament expression.”
Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 500

“Jesus is Mary's only son, but her spiritual motherhood extends to all men whom indeed he came to save: ‘the Son whom she brought forth is he whom God placed as the first-born among many brethren, that is, the faithful in whose generation and formation she co-operates with a mother's love.’”
Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 501

“The word ‘brethren’ (Greek adelphoi) has a broader meaning than blood brothers. Since ancient Hebrew had no word for ‘cousin’, it was customary to use ‘brethren’ in the Bible for relationships other than blood brothers. In the Greek Old Testament, a ‘brother’ can be a nearly related cousin (1st Chronicles 23:21-22), a more remote kinsman (Deuteronomy 23:72nd Kings 10:13-14), an uncle or a nephew (Genesis 13:8), or the relation between men bound by covenant (2nd Samuel 1:26; see 1st Samuel 18:3). Continuing this Old Testament tradition, the New Testament often uses ‘brother’ or ‘brethren’ in this wider sense. Paul uses it as a synonym for his Israelite kinsmen in Romans 9:3. It also denotes biologically unrelated Christians in the New Covenant family of God (Romans 8:2912:1Colossians 1:2Hebrews 2:11James 1:2CCC, no. 500).”
Scott Hahn, Curtis Mitch, and Dennis Walters, The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible New Testament 
  • Further notes from the footnote for Matthew 12:46 read: “The New Testament often mentions Jesus' brethren (13:55Mark 3:316:3Luke 8:19John 2:127:3Acts 1:14Galatians 1:19). The Church maintains, however, that Jesus' Mother, Mary, remained a virgin throughout her life. These so-called brethren of Jesus are thus his relatives but not children of Mary. Four observations support the Church's tradition: (1) These brethren are never called the children of Mary, although Jesus himself is (John 2:119:25Acts 1:14). (2) Two names mentioned, James and Joseph, are sons of a different ‘Mary’ in Matthew 27:56 (Mark 15:40). (3) It is unlikely that Jesus would entrust his Mother to the Apostle John at his Crucifixion if she had other natural sons to care for her (John 19:26-27).” 


Imagine how often Joseph and Mary would have prayed when they were misunderstood. When Mary first conceived she was misunderstood. When Joseph decided to proceed with their marriage he was misunderstood. When Jesus was rejected in the synagogue in Nazareth he was misunderstood. Read John 15:16, then read John 15:1-15. Read it a few times. Pay attention to what word or phrases “tugs” at your heart. Pay attention to all of your thoughts, feelings, and desires as you slowly read the text.

Now, prayerfully imagine the “hidden scene” of Nazareth. Imagine Mary going to the water well in Nazareth. It is merely weeks after Jesus’ birth. The small-minded gossipers of Nazareth are still whispering about Mary and Joseph and the misunderstood “circumstances” of her pregnancy.
You are there, with her. She turns to you. She asks you, “What’s on your heart today? When do you feel misunderstood?” What do you want to tell her? Listen to what she says in reply.

TODAY'S PRAYER:  “Jesus, I desire to know you in a deeply personal way. Help me to be present to you as you are present to me.”

© Fr. Mark Toups, 2014