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Doing God’s will

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Any good we do may not always be met with approval and appreciation. In fact, it can cause conflict and opposition from people with malicious intent or even from others who may mean well. This is what happens to Jesus in Sunday’s gospel.

Returning from his mission, he comes home and is welcomed by a great crowd of people. While the majority are happy to receive him, there are others who are not. For one, his relatives do not understand him and want to pull him out of the crowd, thinking that he is out of his mind. Then there is the group of scribes from Jerusalem who accuse him of being possessed by Beelzebul and of driving out demons by the prince of demons. Unperturbed, Jesus deals with the accusations serenely and takes the occasion to further his teaching about the kingdom of God.

To the religious leaders who accuse him of using the power of Satan to exorcise, he simply points out that their accusation is outright illogical and absurd. “How can Satan drive out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.” Using a parable, he further affirms that he is the strong man who comes not only to punish the devil but to free those bound by him.

As for their accusation that he is possessed by Satan, Jesus warns them of the terrible and unforgivable self-condemnation they will bring on themselves for blaspheming the Holy Spirit. What Jesus does is by the power of the Holy Spirit. Attributing it to the power of Satan is a deliberate and absolute refusal of God’s mercy through the Holy Spirit.

As for the family of Jesus who wanted to pull him out of the crowd, we do not know exactly what prompted them to do so. Are they wanting to spare Jesus (and themselves) from the embarrassment of creating a public scene and making a laughingstock of the family? Or are they simply concerned that he has become so obsessed with his newfound ministry that he has no time even to eat?

Whatever it is, Jesus takes the occasion to reveal to the people a new way of relating to each other. He is inaugurating a new family where all are brothers and sisters, related not by blood, race, culture or any natural ties but solely by belonging to him as Lord and Brother, and doing the will of God, the Father. “Who are my mother and my brothers?” …Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

Many years ago, I joined the World Youth Day in Sydney as a volunteer catechist-bishop for the English speaking groups. Each morning, we (catechist-bishops) were picked up from our hotel and brought to our assigned catechetical sites. During one of those trips, we had a lively conversation on spirituality. It was none of those formal or serious theological discussions, but just a spontaneous sharing to while away the time. Listening to the different types of spirituality, one bishop curiously asked, “How about Jesus, what could his spirituality be?” After much exchange, we realized that the spirituality of Jesus can best be expressed in doing his Father’s will. “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work… I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me … My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

Seeking the will of God and fulfilling it is in fact the heart of every spirituality, from the most profound and mystical to the “simple spirituality for ordinary people.” Don Bosco taught Dominic Savio how to become a saint by telling him to do his ordinary duties extraordinarily well. Reason: it is in doing our duty that we know what God’s will for us is here and now.*

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