Sunday, June 10
By Courtney Malawy
In the Gospel today from Mark, Jesus’ family claims that he is “out of his mind.” This passage strikes a chord with me because I’ve experienced my family and closest friends thinking I was out of my mind.
Rather than joining the job market after college, I felt called to try something different and joined the Jesuit Volunteer Corp (JVC). JVC would send me to a house somewhere in the U.S. and ask me to work for two years directly alongside the marginalized while intentionally living in community and at the poverty line. I would be with people I didn’t know, in areas of our country most people take the long way around. It was not at all surprising when I revealed my plans to my family, that they thought I was crazy. What about an income? What about starting my career, and being safe and comfortable? They could not fathom why I would live differently. Why would I depart from the social trajectory of relatives and neighbors?
Jesus’ family had similar questions and concerns during his ministry. As was tradition in first century Galilee, Jesus, the oldest son, was expected to become the head of household and put himself in a position to provide for the family. Instead, Jesus was pursuing a life of ministry and teaching radical love. Jesus and his disciples were so strongly moved by their calling from God that they were willing to break from social norms and leave behind those they loved in order to carry out God’s mission.
I imagine Jesus’ extended family and friends may have been hurt and confused by Jesus’ path. I imagine them being puzzled and maybe even embarrassed by his way of life. Seeking an explanation they followed in the logic of the educated Scribes. The Scribes and his family resorted to a common conclusion of their time period: If Jesus is living outside the social norms then an evil spirit must possess him and cause him to be out of his mind. Even today, we often resort to calling those living differently insane. Many Jesuit Volunteers remember their families thinking they were: “crazy” or “nuts.”
Jesus defends himself and asserts that he is not possessed. He even goes so far as to put into question his blood relationships declaring that “whoever does the will of God” are his true brothers, sisters, and mother. Early Christians must have taken comfort in this declaration. They were people whose choice in faith may have instantly severed relationships with their family and cast them away from the life they knew. They walked away from the status quo to live a life for others. Humans are relational beings, and as such, we need and desire community. Following Jesus’ example, early Christians found family in one another, and through their communal bonds continued to live out God’s mission.
I think there is a valuable lesson to be learned from Jesus’ declaration and from early Christians: The only way we can truly live out discipleship is together. In San Jose and then Nashville, I was blessed to live in communities of faith-filled volunteers. Together, we accompanied those who lived on the margins, asked tough questions, and supported one another in the journey. We were not related, but we were a family because we shared common bonds in faith.
This passage reminds me that through our Christian baptism, we are invited to live a life that is radically different. It challenges me to let my discipleship cause others to pause and consider my sanity like it did in JVC. But it also reminds me of my community in JVC and that in following Jesus’ example, we are called to build a deep loving community which strives to collectively live out God’s will. I firmly believe that we can’t be on this faith journey alone. In order to live differently, to live radically, we must do so together.