'What Will People Think? '
by Rev. Paul F. deLadurantaye
Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"
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Mark wrote to explain Christ
to the new Gentile converts.
Jesus came home with his disciples. Again the crowd gathered, making it impossible for them even to eat. When his relatives heard of this they set out to seize him, for they said, "He is out of his mind." The scribes who had come from Jerusalem said, "He is possessed by Beelzebul," and "By the prince of demons he drives out demons."
Summoning them, he began to speak to them in parables, "How can Satan drive out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand; that is the end of him. But no one can enter a strong man's house to plunder his property unless he first ties up the strong man. Then he can plunder the house." Amen, I say to you, all sins and all blasphemies that people utter will be forgiven them. But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an everlasting sin." For they had said, "He has an unclean sprit."
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."
“What will people think?” This is a very common question, because many people want to look good in front of others, to put on a good appearance. People care about what others think of them. In the Gospel, St. Mark records what his own relatives thought about Jesus: “He is out of his mind.” Other people said, “He is possessed by Beelzebul.” These opinions were based on a superficial view of Jesus and his mission: to an outside observer, it might have seemed crazy for Jesus to leave home and family in Nazareth and wander throughout Galilee and Judea, associating with many who were on the lower levels of society. To those who did not want to accept Jesus’ power over sin and evil (a power that could only be divine), it was easy to accuse him of being in league with evil and to deny the reality that here was God, acting before their very eyes.
To these displays of what is really bad faith, Jesus responded by teaching his disciples the meaning of true faith. First, authentic faith unites the believer’s mind and will to the truth of God and his revelation. This interior unity transforms the believer into “a strong man,” as Jesus says, who cannot be overcome by opposing forces of any kind. The Christian’s “house” stands fortified by the truth that sets us free and the love that is stronger than sin and death.
Secondly, true faith calls for a strong and vibrant devotion to God who is rich in mercy. The effectiveness of faith appears in the forgiveness that pours forth unceasingly from the infinite compassion of God. The only thing that inhibits that outpouring is a disbelief in God’s willingness to forgive. That is what Jesus calls the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit — allowing doubt about God’s divine mercy to poison our faith. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “There are no limits to the mercy of God, but anyone who deliberately refuses to accept his mercy by repenting, rejects the forgiveness of his sins and the salvation offered by the Holy Spirit” (CCC 1864). If our faith is truly authentic, then we will seek out and accept the truth of God’s mercy. Only that can save us from persisting in hardness of heart and running the risk of the loss of the Kingdom of God for eternity.
Finally, true faith is essentially relational. Christian faith is not meant to be isolating, or merely a private act that alienates us from others. The one whose life is truly formed by faith stands before Jesus in the closest of relationships, even as another Mary: “Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” It is not simply because Mary is Jesus’ physical mother that she has a special place; rather, it is because she, like no other, has done what God wills. The Lord wants us to be like Mary, ready with a generous love and obedience to give our own “Yes” to whatever he may ask of us. When we learn to surrender ourselves to God in order to fulfill his will, especially in the service of our brothers and sisters, then we become Jesus’ own family, united to him and to one another by the bonds of faith, hope and love.
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