Hebrews 9: 2-3, 11-14
Mark 3: 20-21
Taken out of its context, today’s gospel extract from Mark appears quite puzzling.
Here we see a man so popular and in such demand that he cannot eat a meal in peace. But rather than feel joy and pride in such attention, his family are concerned as they think he is out of his mind – so much so that they seek to take charge of him.
By contrast, in today’s world, Jesus would be an instant celebrity with countless followers on Instagram – a viral sensation on Tik Tok. He would most certainly have influencer status, courted by millions seeking and following his public posts. Yet for all this obvious attention, Jesus’ relatives want to take him out of the limelight, fearing for his safety and sanity. Why?
The answer lies in the next verses wherein we learn that the scribes believe he is possessed by Beelzebub and endeavour to bring him down. A stark lesson to us across time is that the world is not always a safe place for people with challenging or reforming ideas. Those with power and influence are so often highly suspicious of those who are perceived to undermine their positions and status, and many will go to great lengths to “other” them in many ways.
We do not have to look too far to see egregious examples of this: from Russia to Myanmar, China to Iran, Afghanistan to North Korea, and places where individual freedoms are sacrificed to the pursuit and maintenance of power. And whilst it is easy to point the finger at others, we should not forget that we too are susceptible to such prejudice, whether from being too comfortable in our own belief systems or too wary of those we see as being different.
Reading the gospels, we look for the principles and practices espoused by Jesus that we can apply to the contexts of our own lives. In understanding that Jesus lived in dangerous times in which dangerous ideas were eschewed, feared and “othered”, we can appreciate his courage, conviction and strength in meeting such fearful prejudice head-on.
As always, his example should be a guiding beacon for us.
Phil Page is a member of the St Joseph’s Hobart Parish