June 6, 2021
Revised Common Lectionary
1 Samuel 8:4-11 (12-15), 16-20 (11:14-15)
or Genesis 3:8-15
Psalm 138 or Psalm 130
2 Corinthians 4:13 – 5:1
Lectionary for Mass (RC)
Psalm 116:12-13, 15-16, 17-18 (13)
Mark 14:12-16, 22-26
During his career as a television comedian in the 1960s and 1970s, Flip Wilson popularized the expression, “The devil made me do it.” In today’s Gospel reading, the scribes might be seen as turning Wilson’s expression around in an accusation against Jesus, claiming not only that Satan made it possible for him to drive out demons but that he was somehow in league with—or even subject to—the prince of demons.
There is a ferocity to Jesus’ response to these upstanding religious leaders. He begins with two short parables. In the first of these, he uncovers the weakness of their logic: If Satan were enabling Jesus to cast out demons, he would be fighting himself. The second parable suggests that Jesus’ works of healing and liberation show him to be the one capable of restraining the “strong man” (Satan) and wreaking havoc on his house.
The effort of the scribes to undermine his mission was clearly deliberate and premeditated—they had come all the way from Jerusalem just to have this confrontation—and so Jesus saves his harshest response for last. By accusing Jesus of doing demonic work when he was acting in the Holy Spirit, Jesus declares, they had blasphemed the Spirit—a sin that he characterizes as unforgivable.
Even members of Jesus’ family express more than a little skepticism about his ministry. Near the beginning of today’s reading, we hear that “[t]hey went out to restrain him,” based on reports that he had “gone out of his mind.” (Mk 3:21). His response to their concerns comes only at the end of today’s passage as they stand outside asking to see him.
He responds neither to their request nor to their concerns about his sanity. Instead, he poses a new question: “Who are my mother and my brothers?” (3:33) In another harsh response, Jesus redefines the very meaning of family. He suggests that those blood relatives who are standing physically outside were not his real family. Rather, his family was made up of those who were inside and close to him: “Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother” (3:35). In the reign of God, family is no longer a matter of blood relationship, but of commitment to the mission of Jesus in doing the works of healing and liberation.
Stories of rejection by religious leaders and family members have been told through the ages. Think of Jacob’s favorite son Joseph, sold into slavery by his brothers; Galileo, who was silenced by church authorities for teaching that the earth revolved around the sun; or the visionary Joan of Arc, sentenced by an ecclesiastical court to be burned at the stake.
That kind of rejection continues today. During this Pride Month, it might be worth reflecting on the stories of countless members of the LGBTQ community who have suffered emotional and spiritual abuse at the hands of both church and family. The Trevor Project’s 2020 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health reported that 40 percent of LGBTQ youth had “seriously considered” suicide in the previous year, while a previous study revealed that rates of suicide are higher among LGBTQ youth of color. The leading causes of emotional stress among these young people were rejection, discrimination, and victimization.
It has long been the case that, as in many marginalized communities, “family” among LGBTQ persons has often meant an intentional community characterized by acceptance, support, and love. During the AIDS crisis of the 1980s there were numerous examples of devotion and love among people who formed familial bonds through compassionate care and healing love. These are the kinds of family values of which Jesus speaks in today’s Gospel reading.
Who is my family? Whoever does the will of God by embracing the call to carry on the mission of Jesus to set people free and to bring them his healing love.
A Hymn for Today: “If Christ Is Charged with Madness”
Thomas H. Troeger, FHS, has written numerous hymn texts for the Sunday Lectionary. This one, based on today’s Gospel reading, does more than retell the story. The barrage of verb forms in this poem creates a dynamism that is enhanced by Troeger’s vivid vocabulary. In the last stanza, the singing community prays that Christ will “intrude” with the “madness” that Mark alludes to in today’s Gospel passage.
If Christ is charged with madness,
It’s madness that’s divine,
A visionary gladness
This world cannot confine,
The madness of conceiving
What no one else can see,
Then acting and believing
So it will come to be.
Thus when Christ seized and plundered
The demons’ dark domain,
His friends and foes both wondered
If he were not insane.
They charged his soul was riven,
His heart and mind possessed
By forces he had driven
From those who were distressed.
Christ spoke to all this ranting,
A vivid, lucid word,
A parable supplanting
The charges he had heard.
“A house that is divided,
A kingdom, soul, or land
With raging wars inside it
Cannot survive and stand.”
Despite his deft explaining,
Christ still appeared distraught
To guardians maintaining
Accepted bounds of thought.
The force of faith in action
Seems madness to each age
And often the reaction
Is fear disguised as rage.
Yet earth needs heaven’s madness
To seize with grace and bind
The guilt, the hurt, the sadness,
The fear and hate that blind.
Intrude, O Christ, impassioned
With madness that’s divine
Upon the world we’ve fashioned,
And give it your design.
Text: Thomas H. Troeger, b. 1945. © 1986, Oxford University Press. Used by permission under OneLicense #A-729857.
Tunes: KING’S LYNN, AURELIA
Image Credit: Alternative Family Services, Santa Rosa, California
“Word and Song: A Lectionary Reflection” is written by the Executive Director of The Hymn Society, Rev. Dr. Mike McMahon. For his full bio, click here and scroll down to the “staff” section.
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