Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
The episode told in the passage of today’s Gospel (Mk 3: 20-35) is set in a house, a place very dear to the Evangelist Mark. And it is organized in three parts, intertwined with each other: in the first and third the protagonists are the relatives of Jesus, in the second are some scribes coming down from Jerusalem.
The link that holds all these characters together is given by a verb: “they said” (Mk 3: 21,22,30). In fact, each of the two groups has its own personal opinion of Jesus, and statesit.
Relatives say that Jesus is out of His mind; the scribes say, He is possessed by Beelzebul. The most embarrassed seem to be the family: this son, having left their home and already so distant and different, creates some concern. That’s when they go to seize Him.
At this point of the Gospel, Jesus has already performed different miracles, pronounced words that claim to bring a new event in history, and raised questions about His person: who is He? (Mk 1:27). He also aroused hostility, and the two groups of today’s Gospel are the representatives of those who, for different reasons, are bothered by the presence of Jesus.
To these two opinions, Jesus answers in two different ways.
He replies to the scribes with two short parables: in the first (Mk 3:24-26), He states that He cannot be an agent of Satan, since so far He has done nothing but defeat him and dethrone him. It would be strange if one of his agents, instead of playing his game, would hinder him.
In the second (Mk 3:27) Jesus gives the key to the reading of all that he has done so far: He entered a house where Satan dominated, where he was strong, and bound him, made him powerless. And He could do it because He is stronger than Satan, and won the struggle right away.
The reader of the Gospel of Mark knows that it is really so: the first miracle of Jesus, in the synagogue of Caphernaum, was to drive away the demon that possessed a man who lived there. He literally chased him away, ordering him to go out (Mk 1:21-26), and Satan could not help but leave. Continuing to read the Gospel, we will see the same dynamic several times.
So, in this way, it is Jesus who in a veiled manner reveals His identity: not only is He not out of His mind, not only is He not possessed by Beelzebul, but He is the “mightier” (Mk 1:7) announced by the Baptist, the One who comes to establish the Kingdom of God.
He is the mightiest; and that He is the mightiest we will see from His ability to forgive every sin (Mk 3:28): He will forgive everything, every sin and every blasphemy. Only someone very strong can do this.The only thing that Jesus cannot forgive is the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, that is, the inability to recognize where the Lord is at work or where His enemy is at work. To sin against the Holy Spirit is to label the work of the Spirit as the work of Satan. In this way, there will be no possibility of recognizing the work of God and any gesture will be read in the wrong way and will not lead to the encounter with salvation. This is what happens to the scribes, who interpret the work of Jesus as the work of Satan. Whoever does this, closes himself to grace, to the gift of God, remains outside the gift of life.
To tell the scribes these parables, Jesus uses an expression used a little earlier, He callsthem (Mk 3:23). In fact, few verses earlier (Mk 3, 6-18), Jesus called His own, the twelve, one by one. He called them to a personal relationship, that is to follow Him.
Somehow, now He also calls these scribes that came down from Jerusalem with a negative judgment on Him. And He calls them to go out, to make a journey, to become aware of the blasphemy that inhabits them, which leads them to death, to open themselves to life, to the freedom of hosting in their own home the “mightiest”, the true liberator, the One who forgives.
With this first answer, Jesus tells who He is. Now it is a matter of answering the family, in some respects more hardened towards Him, more touched by, more compromised by His “strangeness”.
Answering them, Jesus tells who His new family is, what His house is, who are His family. A family, usually, is a closed group, and well defined by blood ties. Not anyone can belong to it, there is no room for strangers.
Well, Jesus widens the nets and opens the doors to whoever wants to enter: the only criterion of belonging to His family is that clear, yet mathematically unverifiable, doing the Will of the Father. It is not a question then of entering into an elitist group, but of going out, as Jesus’ family clearly understood when they said that “He is out of His mind himself” (“they went out to seize him”, 3:21). whoever accepts to go out of their own schemes, from their own certainties, enter into this family like Jesus and His disciples, of whom, at the beginning, it is said that they did not even have time to eat (Mk 3:20). A incomprehensible thing to a “traditional” family, aimed precisely at ensuring that needs, times and traditions are respected.
Not here: those who welcome the salvation of the Father become part of this family and thus learn to make their own lives a gift; those who welcome a pardon for all and who know how to discern in Jesus the Kingdom of God which is present in history.