This question would not be necessary if all members of a family were just as close and understanding as they should be. The family is a social unit which includes parents, children, grandchildren, and when extended, includes cousins, uncles, aunts, in-laws, etc. This social unit describes a connecting link or bond that holds all these persons together and stretches as far as we can go to very remote ancestors. The expectation is that this social unit, provided by divine providence, should serve as a safe haven where the members should be welcomed with joy, held in love and supported through their individual development. Through this closely-knit social unit, they can go out to the larger society and return to this safe home and feel really at home. This social unit multiplies itself through births. Adults welcome new members with joy and gladness because in the babies and young ones, they see their replacement and continuation of this love-chain that holds all the family members together. Adults not only welcome the new ones, they care for them, nurture them until they become adults, and remain their support as they step out to find their place in the world. On the other hand, as the adults get older, the younger ones in turn care for their older members and nurture them with love and care until they reach the end of their lives. It is a cycle that God perfectly designed for all of us, so that no one should suffer neglect or abandonment. Without this bond, this holding environment in which we grow, none of us would survive!

But the same God knows that family, as this important social unit that provides a holding space for all His children, is imperfect. Some children are born with an absent father; some are born by mothers who are not ready to have children, and they take out their anger on those children; some siblings fight each other and estrange themselves over minor things; some parents are completely neglected or abandoned by their children or relatives and grow old and die without care and nurture! This is the real situation, and it does not reflect the intention of God.

Our Lord, Jesus Christ, suffered exactly the same thing. His relatives completely neglected him, and even made fun of him, calling him a crazy man, a son of a carpenter. After all, they knew him and his mother and father; he should not claim to be anything more than an ordinary person. They were so envious of him that they could not recognize any gift of God he brought to them. Our Lord quickly realized that “a prophet is only despised in his own country, among his own relations and in his own house” (Mk. 6:4). From this realization, he moved on to broaden the idea of family. Who is my family? His answer is a stunning shift: “looking around at those sitting in a circle about him, he said, ‘here are my mother and my brothers and sisters. Anyone who does the will of God, that person is my brother and sister and mother” (Mk. 3:35). The unexpressed truth in this statement of Jesus is that it is impossible to want to know and do God’s will and not love and care for others. In other words, the more parents and children and siblings deepen their knowledge of God and His will, the more they will come to appreciate the bond of love that holds them together. Henceforth, it is the knowledge of God’s will that holds us together. This is one reason Our Lord did not entrust his mother to any of his relatives but to a friend and disciple: John. He expressly told John: “this is your mother”; and turning to his mother Mary he said, “this is your son” (Jn. 19:26). From that day, John took Mary to his home as his mother and cared for her and she cared for him as she would her own son. As we thank God for the gift of family members, we pray for all struggling families, for God’s peace, forgiveness and redeeming joy. Amen