Becoming Jesus’ Mother and Brothers

September 26, 2023
Tuesday of the Twenty-Fifth Week in Ordinary Time

Saints Cosmas and Damian, Martyrs—Optional Memorial

The mother of Jesus and his brothers came to him but were unable to join him because of the crowd. He was told, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside and they wish to see you.” He said to them in reply, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it.” Luke 8:19–21

The term “brothers” in this passage is obviously not to be understood that Jesus had blood brothers. It is a dogma of our faith that Jesus was the only Child of Mary. At that time, it was common practice to refer to one’s extended family as “brothers.” This would have especially applied to Jesus’ cousins and perhaps even those who were unrelated by blood but were from the same village.

As these relatives of Jesus stood outside and announced their presence, what did they expect Jesus to do? His “brothers” might have been there to try to talk some sense into Him. We know from other passages in the Gospels that some of Jesus’ extended family thought He was out of His mind. Therefore, it is possible that these brothers were there to resolve an extended family conflict that was erupting as Jesus began His public ministry.

Jesus’ response was not a rude response. This is clear from the fact that Jesus lived the perfection of charity. But true charity is always grounded in the truth. Jesus spoke a truth that cut through the merely human ties and conflicts that were driving these brothers. By saying, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it,” Jesus was challenging His brothers to stop looking at Him only in an earthly way. Everyone, including His relatives, needed to learn to see Jesus as the Son of the Father in Heaven. It was the act of accepting Jesus’ divine identity and submitting in obedience to the will of the Father that established a much deeper bond with Him. That is the relationship that Jesus desired with His earthly brothers.

The mother of Jesus, on the other hand, was also perfect in every way. She was free from the disorder of sin and even her mind was clear, being filled with perfect wisdom and understanding. Therefore, when it was reported to her what Jesus said, she would have understood and believed.

Saint Bede says that when we hear the word of God and obey it, we become Jesus’ “mother” by bringing Him forth into the world through our words and actions. This also makes us Jesus’ “brothers” because our obedience makes us all children of the Father in Heaven.

By the gift of the fullness of grace, our Blessed Mother would have fully understood that her unity with her Son was primarily the result of their shared obedience to the Father’s will. She not only experienced the Son of God being conceived within her womb, she also had the profound experience of conceiving Him in her heart through her obedience to the will of the Father. That “conception” of Jesus within her Immaculate Heart would have been unmistakably clear to her and the cause of her greatest joy. For that reason, she would have treasured this spiritual motherhood of her Son as the greatest gift of all, even more than the gift of natural motherhood.

Reflect, today, upon the fact that you are also invited to be the “mother” and the “brother” of Jesus. You share in these holy callings through obedience to the will of the Father. The more clearly you hear God speak and the more fully you obey all that He says will determine the depth of spiritual union you have with Him. Our natural selves must give way to the supernatural life of grace. Make the choice, with our Blessed Mother, to pursue the glorious life of grace so that you will conceive the Son of God in your heart, become a true child of the Father in Heaven, and become a spiritual brother or sister of our Lord.

My divine Lord, Your love for Your earthly mother was perfect in every way. That earthly bond was transformed and elevated by Your spiritual union with her on account of Your mutual obedience to the will of the Father. Please draw me into Your divine Family by helping me to listen to and to obey all that the Father speaks. Jesus, I trust in You.