Sunday, 9 June 2024: 10th Sunday, Year B

Genesis 3:9-15; 2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1; Mark 3:20-35


This scene, recounted by the Evangelist Mark, takes place at the beginning of Jesus' public ministry. After his baptism by John and the selection of his first disciples, followed by a forty-day fast in the desert, he returned to Galilee and began his ministry first in Capernaum and then in the villages of Galilee. He had already healed several people, starting with Simon Peter's mother-in-law. This sudden and overwhelming activity provoked strong reactions from the people's authorities, the scribes, and also worried his family.

Some of Jesus' first healings are striking. He cured a demoniac by giving the demon a command with authority. He healed a leper, then a paralytic, then a man with a withered hand, and many others. These healings were so obvious, and performed in front of large crowds, that the scribes could not deny them. So they tried to explain them away by saying that Jesus possessed demonic power and that it was by the power he received from the demon that he cast out demons.

Jesus' response has three distinct parts, which must be analysed separately. The second is simply an ad hominem response, showing the insipid nature of their accusation. If Satan is divided against himself, he won't last long. So, whatever your interpretation, Satan's kingdom is over. In reality it can be said that there is only one truth about Satan revealed in the Gospel, and that is that he has been defeated by Christ.

The third part of Jesus' answer to the scribes is truly terrible. Their accusation that it is by the spirit of evil and not by the Spirit of God that Jesus does these wonderful things to free human beings from the grip of evil is a sin against the Spirit. All the sins and blasphemies of the sons of men will be forgiven them, he says, except this sin against the Spirit. It is unforgivable.

But let's go back to the first part of Jesus' answer. In affirming that if Satan is divided against himself, his kingdom will not be able to stand, Jesus makes a comparison with the family, saying: ‘If a family is divided, that family will not be able to stand’. This statement is all the more remarkable in that this whole altercation with the scribes is framed by two references to Jesus' own family. At the beginning of the story, we are told that Jesus' family, on learning that he was there, pressed by the crowd to the point where he could not even eat, came to seize him, because they thought he had lost his mind. Then, at the end of the story, Jesus is told that his mother, Mary herself, and her brothers, in other words the members of his immediate family, are there and want to see him, no doubt to get him away from the crowd. And we know Jesus' answer: ’Who is my mother? Who are my brothers? And, looking round at those sitting in a circle around him, the twelve whom he had just chosen before this event, he said: ‘Here are my mother and my brothers. He who does the will of God, this is my brother, my sister, my mother".

The family is a place of passage. It is through the family that we enter the world, but one day we must leave it to take our own place in society. In the same way, belonging to a people or a nation should be an introduction to the great human family, rather than leading to a narrow and blind nationalism, as was the case for Israel until the coming of Jesus. Moments of rupture are necessary for growth, just as leaving the womb is necessary for birth.

With Jesus, the family takes on a completely new meaning. It is no longer, for each of the members who belong to it, the heart of the world, to which everything must be related and attached. It is fragmented. It is the place from which we leave to enter the world -- a place of passage and initiation into the universe. This exit, or passage, is the sword that splits Mary's heart in two, as the old man Simeon predicted on the day of the Presentation in the Temple. Her heart will be divided between the Son she loses when he escapes from her, in the Temple, at the age of twelve, when he leaves her around the age of thirty, when she is no doubt already a widow, and the Son she will finally lose when he is crucified. This divided heart is immediately re-soldered in the universal love she shares with her son.

For Jesus' new family is the whole of the Nations to which the Twelve he has just chosen will be sent, and to whom he will later say: “Go and make disciples of all nations”, that is to say, “Make a great family of all nations”.

During this Eucharist, let us give thanks to Jesus, firstly for having defeated the devil, but also and above all for having made us members of his great family.

Armand Veilleux