The scene is set. Two separate groups of characters standing on opposite sides of a door: insiders and outsiders. Outside, along with the scribes from Jerusalem, stands Jesus’ family. The inside is where Jesus has just retired for a meal with his newly appointed disciples. The riffraff are also there, crowding around Jesus so much that he cannot eat.
Jesus’ family has heard that he is behaving as if he were possessed. They have come to intervene. His family summons their son and brother to come out. Jesus responds with a sweeping gesture that takes in all those inside seated around him: “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”
Shouldn’t it be the other way around? Shouldn’t those who represent the two major protectors of social order – the family and the synagogue – be the insiders? With his simple gesture and words, Jesus turns this upside down. Jesus is going for deep change. His exorcisms are not only for individuals but for the social institutions that helped create the diseases he is healing.
Today, the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements have shaken various social institutions with their revelations of sexual abuse and gender inequity. These movements are seeking to exorcise not just sexual abuse but a whole system of gender privilege rife throughout the structure of our society. They seek deep, systemic change, just as Jesus did in his day. The church is not immune.
The contrast between the vision of politics that Pope Francis presented to a joint session of Congress in 2015 and the political state of our nation today is heartbreaking. In Francis’s message, the core of the vocation of public service, and of all politics, is to promote the integral development of every human person and of society as a whole.
That vocation requires special and self-sacrificial concern for the poor, the unborn, the vulnerable, and the marginalized. It’s a commitment to pursue the common good. We must seek to form within our faith community a Catholic political imagination which lies in heartfelt compassion for all those who are suffering in society.
The reality that young black men fear for their security; the specter of deportation for mothers and fathers and children in the millions; the utter desolation of parents who have lost their children to gun violence; rampant patterns of sexual harassment and assault directed against women – these are wounds that tear at our social fabric and constitute immense human suffering.
In The Wounded Healer, Henri Nouwen writes that a Christian community is “a healing community not because wounds and pains are alleviated but because wounds and pains become openings or occasions for a new vision.” A broken body can lead to new life. The church is called to follow Jesus in saying, “This is my body broken for you.” For by his wounds we are healed.
Paul A. Magnano