People who use sacred texts have often found ways of selecting passages appropriate to their needs. Disciples of Confucius used a complex system of hexagrams, chosen by lot, to find images and comments suitable to their time, place and situation. In classical and medieval times, the writings of Virgil and Homer were used in a similar way. Sometimes the Bible was accessed by lot or dice or random procedures. The Church responded to the need to select appropriate wisdom from the Bible, by the daily lectionary, a selection of readings for every day in the year, which was originally used in monasteries, but has for some time been used in daily mass in the Catholic Church, and for private devotion in others. Obviously the choice of passages reflects a theology and the Christian calendar, but it also has an arbitrary element. It asks the reader, “Can this wisdom be applied to your soul, your community, your place, today?” This blog follows the daily readings and hopes to uncover some wisdom.
Reading 1, 2 Timothy 1:1-8*
1 From Paul, apostle of Christ Jesus through the will of God in accordance with his promise of life in Christ Jesus,
2 to Timothy, dear son of mine. Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Christ Jesus our Lord.
3 Night and day I thank God whom I serve with a pure conscience as my ancestors did. I remember you in my prayers constantly night and day;
4 I remember your tears and long to see you again to complete my joy.
5 I also remember your sincere faith, a faith which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois, and your mother Eunice, and I am sure dwells also in you.
6 That is why I am reminding you now to fan into a flame the gift of God that you possess through the laying on of my hands.
7 God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but the Spirit of power and love and self-control.
8 So you are never to be ashamed of witnessing to our Lord, or ashamed of me for being his prisoner; but share in my hardships for the sake of the gospel, relying on the power of God
Gospel, Mark 3:31-35
31 Now his mother and his brothers arrived and, standing outside, sent in a message asking for him.
32 A crowd was sitting round him at the time the message was passed to him, ‘Look, your mother and brothers and sisters are outside asking for you.’
33 He replied, ‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’
34 And looking at those sitting in a circle round him, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers.
35 Anyone who does the will of God, that person is my brother and sister and mother
Sometimes family love can also be the means of handing on the gospel from one generation to another; for example in my own case, although difficulties in the relationship handed on some damage as well. Doubtless I will have transmitted to my daughter both good news and bad news. Throughout the history of Christianity, in spite of all its faults, the family has been the main means by which faith has been engendered and nourished. That is not to undervalue the church’s organised missions to “outsiders”-some may say these have been given too much credit-but it is to value the family as an evangelical institution. The church co-operates with the family in nourishing faith-that’s the meaning of infant baptism-offering education to parents and encouragement to children. This is insufficiently recognised and resourced in many churches today.The Letter to Timothy bears witness to the value of the family as an instrument of God’s love, while noting the special place of the evangelist who confirms Timothy’s vocation.
The Mark passage is of incidental interest as a refutation of the Catholic Church’s daft doctrine of Mary’s perpetual virginity, and their dismissal of the plain sense of Jesus’ “brothers and sisters.” The holy family was not a family without sex. Hallelujah.
It is also a glimpse into the contradiction between family love and the greater love that Jesus espoused. His family thought he was mad when they heard what he was saying and doing and tried to get him home, out of harm’s way. In response to his natural family’s lack of faith, Jesus asserted the reality of the larger family of God’s obedient children. He can’t have done so without pain, a pain shared perhaps by many of Mark’s readers in 70 CE, when the new faith often divided families. In spite of all this, we know that Jesus’ mother was honoured in the first churches, and his brother James was the leader of the church in Jerusalem.
Perhaps the balance is right when the small family serves the larger one.