Reflection on Mark 3.20-21

Too often we find ourselves in conflict with others. That conflict is usually rooted in a misunderstanding of circumstance or motive. We are quick to adopt a position on the issues that arise in our lives. We soon convince ourselves that the positions and attitudes we have adopted are the only ones that can possibly be correct. From there it is only a short journey to our being prepared to ‘fight’ to defend that which we ‘know’ to be right. We become so entrenched that all other attitudes and opinions become attacks on our way of thinking, on our way of living. This sounds a very dramatic escalation, but it is common at all levels of our daily existence. Parents are certain that their opinions and behaviours should be respected and adopted by their children. Neighbours are certain that the way in which they live out their daily lives should be respected and honoured by those amongst whom they live. Those who hold political office exert their authority and power in way that is intended to make us do ‘as we are told’! And those who fail to comply are deemed to have gone out of their minds!!

In today’s reading we hear of Jesus’ family saying: He has gone out of his mind. Why are they saying this? What is causing them to come to this harsh judgement about Jesus? The answer is simple … he is not conforming to their norm, to the way of living they know and would have expected him to honour and to emulate. Such contrary behaviour must be a demonstration of his having gone out of his mind. As recent as the mid-20th century people who did not follow the norms as laid down by their families could find themselves incarcerated in mental institutions because such unorthodoxy must be a demonstration of mental illness.

Of course, Jesus was not out of his mind. Jesus was carrying out the mission he came to achieve. Jesus was proclaiming the Good News; Jesus was healing the sick; Jesus was casting out demons; Jesus was showing the world that the Son of God was really in their midst. This was clearly a problem, even for his own family. They must have known the story of his miraculous birth. They must have seen him grow into the man around whom great crowds gathered, and yet they said: He has gone out of his mind.

Today we must pray for the strength to hold firm when those around us fail to recognise that we are striving to follow God’s call in our lives. We must pray that we might take seriously the truth that God is the one who knows our hearts and minds best. We must pray that even when God’s call seems like madness to us, as well as those around us, it is a demonstration of a wisdom that far exceeds any wisdom of our own.