The Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary – Readings

Commentary on Zechariah 2:14-17; Psalm: Luke 1:46-55; Matt 12:46-50

The Gospel reading is from Matthew. It is a short, isolated passage between a number of separate incidents taking place between the discourse on the mission of the disciples (chap 10) and the discourse on the parables of the Kingdom (chap 13). It concerns the family of Jesus.

There are slight differences between Mark’s account of this event and Matthew’s. As usually is the case, Matthew’s treatment is softer, more gentle, but Mark’s may be closer to the original.

Matthew says that, while Jesus was speaking to the crowds, he was told that his mother and his ‘brothers’ were outside, looking for him. ‘Brothers’ is normally understood here in a wider sense to include cousins (even today in some cultures – Malaysia, for instance, it is quite common for people to talk about their ‘cousin brothers’ or ‘cousin sisters’). Jesus was told:

Look, your mother and your brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.

Jesus’ reply seems rather abrupt and unexpected, if not downright impolite, especially coming from him:

Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?

Then, stretching out his hand towards his disciples, he says:

Here are my mother and my brothers!

And he then defines what constitutes being a member of his family:

…whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.

Jesus, of course, is not being rude to his mother or the rest of his family. But he is making what he regards as a very important point, and it is put in other ways in other parts of the Gospel. To be a follower of Jesus is to belong to a new family, a family with stronger ties than flesh and blood. It is a family which is bound in love and obedience to God as Father, to Jesus as Brother, and committed to living according to the Way of Life they propose.

Part of that Way, of course, is unconditional love of every single person, including even enemies. Surely then, the members of one’s own family would be included. But, if ever there was a conflict between what God wants and what a family member wants, then there is only one choice available.

In Mark’s account of this story, he tells us that Jesus was in a ‘house’. This unspecified ‘house’, mentioned a number of times, is a symbol of the place where Christ’s disciples gather together. It is significant that in today’s passage we are told that Jesus’ family members were ‘outside’, indicating they were outside in more ways than one. Jesus and his disciples are on the ‘inside’.

And where does Mary come into all of this? Was she an outsider? Hardly! The girl who made her unqualified commitment to God’s will at Nazareth, never once withdrew it. And she was one of the very few who was with her Son to his last dying breath. She was with him in every way.

I need to ask myself if I am truly a member of Jesus’ family.

The First Reading is a short passage from the prophet Zechariah. The passage is a song of praise for Israel, called here “daughter Zion”. But the words can very easily be applied to Mary, especially where Yahweh says:

Sing and rejoice, O daughter Zion! For I will come and dwell in your midst…

And again, Yahweh says:

…I will dwell in your midst. And you shall know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you.

Today’s feast, even if it may lack historical veracity, is full of meaning. It suggests that from her youngest days, Mary was being prepared for her unique role as the Mother of the Son of God, an extraordinary privilege shared by no other. At the same time, the real greatness of Mary is suggested in the Gospel where true greatness does not come from birth but from the total giving of oneself to doing what God wants. In this Mary had no peer.

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