Archbishop Follo: The True Family of Christ, Where the Earth Becomes Heaven

With the wish to understand that to obey to the love of God makes us members of the family of Christ.

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Tenth Sunday of Ordinary Time – Year B – June 10, 2018
Roman Rite
Gen 3,9-15; Ps 130; 2 Cor 4,13-5,1; Mk 3: 20-35
Ambrosian Rite
Gen 2: 18-25; Ps 9; Eph 5,21-33; Mk 10: 1-12
Third Sunday after Pentecost
1) The true family of Christ.
The Gospel proposed today by the Liturgy of the Church reminds us that the will of God is the will of love, justice, and truth. It is the will of a Father who, with his commandments, shows us the path of true, happy and eternal life.
With their disobedience to the God who had created them, Adam and Eve separated the human will from the divine will. With his obedience, Jesus reconciled these two wills fulfilling the desire of Adam, and of all of us, to be free and of to live in heaven.
To continue the work of liberation of Christ, we must obey him by

  1. saying “Our Father who art in heaven … thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” so that we may recognize that the “place” where God’s will is done is in heaven;
  2. doing the will of God, that is, observing the commandments. Doing this, we will make the ‘earth’ ‘heaven’, that is, the place of the presence of love, goodness, truth, and divine beauty;
  3. following the will of God every day and taking upon us our daily cross that will make us “Christopher”, a word of Greek origin that means bearers of Christ.

Thanks to this obedience of love, not only we will live a greater familiarity taking with Christ our ‘earth’ into ‘heaven’, but we will be true members of his family.
The thing that makes us the “true” family of Christ is the consonance with Him in carrying out “the will of the Father”. By putting ourselves in this harmony, we become “kinsman with Christ” in the Spirit. There are no other ways to be his family. Doing the will of the Father who is in heaven is the decisive element that puts us “inside” the true family of the Redeemer: “Not everyone who says to me: Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of the My Father, who is in heaven “(Mt 7,21).
If this applies to the disciples of Christ, it is eminent for Our Lady. In this regard, in Sermon 72, St. Augustine asked himself: ” Did not the Virgin Mary, who by faith believed, by faith conceived, was chosen so that salvation could come to us through her, and was created by Christ before Christ was done in his womb, do the will of the Father? “. Our Lady did the will of the Father and did it entirely; therefore, she became the mother of Christ and his highest disciple.
Let’s look with gratitude to the obedience of the Virgin Mother, to her yes, pronounced not only at the time of the Annunciation but incessantly repeated up to the foot of the cross, and let’s ask her the strength to “do”, as she “did”, the will of God, of whom we will experience love and fidelity. This obedience is possible through the impulse of the Spirit of Christ, whom we invoke through the intercession of the Virgin: “Come, Holy Spirit, come by Mary, and give us a great heart, open to your silent and powerful inspiring word and closed to every petty ambition; a great and strong heart to love everyone, to serve all, to suffer with all; a great, strong, happy heart to beat only with the heart of God “(Blessed Paul VI).
 2) Imitating the Mother in doing the will of the Father.
To the words of Christ: “Who is my mother and who are my brothers?” … “Behold my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God, he is my brother, sister, and mother “(Mt 3, 33-35), today, as two thousand years ago, we can react with the so-called good sense and think that Christ was offering his relatives and above all his mother. Doing so, we would be wrong because we would judge Christ by our small human measure. Jesus did not disavow the Mother to serve the Father. Christ teaches that Mary was his Mother because she had done and was doing the will of the Father. “This is what the Lord wanted to exalt in her: to have done the will of the Father, not to have generated from her flesh the flesh of the Word” (St. Augustine, In I. Evang. Tract., 10.3 – PL 35.1468).
For the Virgin Mother – and in this, we must imitate her – doing God’s will was not to hear the commandments as an external constraint, with the consequence of having a servile relationship with God and a “legalistic” one with his word. For her, doing God’s will was to say yes to love and to give flesh to this redemptive Love.
Renewing her yes (fiat) to God, Our Lady made love, which is the “full fulfillment of the law” (Rom 13: 10), dwell in her heart and became the mother and the apostle of the Love, who wants our good.
Let’s do the same. If we live like Mary, we will live Jesus.
In summary: doing God’s will means “to live Jesus, of Jesus and like Jesus”, that is, to live that relationship of love with the Father that become real in doing his will: children in the Son.
By doing this, we will understand that the only will of God that we must fulfill, is to love.
We must discover how to love in the concrete circumstances of life using discernment. Therefore, we must know how to seek and discern the will of God. In this regard, the Apostle Paul recommends: “Do not conform to the will of this century but transform yourself … in order to discern the will of God” (Rom 12: 2).
God’s will is discovered moment by moment with listening and docility to the voice of the Spirit within us: “Walk according to [that is, under the impulse of] the Spirit”, the Apostle of the Gentiles writes again (Galatians 5:16). Hence, it is necessary to refine the supernatural sensitivity and the evangelical “instinct” that the Spirit has given us and that develops only by exercising it.
To achieve this sensitivity to the voice of the Spirit, St. Paul considers still necessary two things.
The first is the inclusion and the progress in the life of mutual love within the life of the Church that manifests itself in the diocesan, parish or religious community: ” And this is my prayer: that your love [= Christian love lived in the community] may increase ever more and more in knowledge and every kind of perception, to discern what is of value, “(Phil 1: 9-10).
The second is prayer because the knowledge of God’s will is a gift: “Let us not cease to pray for you and ask that you have full knowledge of his will” (Col 1,9).
3) The example of the consecrated Virgins.
A special example of how one can do the will of the Father comes to us from the consecrated Virgins, who, with a life totally given to Christ the Bridegroom, do the will of God and offer him not only what they have but what they are. With the “propositum” of obedience, they have entirely given their heart to God, with the one of chastity they have offered their body and, with the one of poverty, their goods to be put at the service of the love of God and the neighbor. To these three arms of the spiritual cross (obedience, chastity, and poverty), I add the one of humility.
Humility is not – nowadays and, perhaps it never was-  greatly esteemed, but the consecrated Virgins in the world know that this virtue makes fruitful the work in the vineyard of God. Humility comes from the Latin word humilitas, which has to do with hummus (earth), that is, with adherence to the earth, to reality. These women, who have given themselves completely to God, live like humble people because living in Him and for Him, they humbly listen to Christ, the Word of God, and tend to have the same feelings of their beloved Spouse (“Have in you the same sentiments of Christ Jesus “- Phil 2: 5). As St. Augustine said: “There is no charity without humility” (Prologue of the Commentary on the Letter of Saint John). In another book, he writes: “Custodian of virginity is charity; humility is the house where this guardian lives “(On Holy Virginity, 51, 52).
The vocation to live consecrated virginity as a complete gift of self to Christ and sign of the Bride Church, is expressed in their trust without reserve in the love of their Bridegroom, in the intensity of communion with him, in the humble charity that becomes disinterested service to the Church and a luminous testimony of faith, hope and charity in the context of ordinary life. As requested by the Rite of their consecration (see nos. 14-18) every virgin belonging to the Ordo is constantly committed and knows that prayer is not only a personal, generous response to the voice of the Bridegroom and a humble request for help to remain faithful to holy purpose and the gift received, but it is an intimate participation in the life of the mystical body of Christ, untiring intercession for the Church and for the world
Patristic Reading
Golden Chain
on Mark 3:31-35
 Theophylact: Because the relations of the Lord had come to seize upon Him, as if beside Himself, His mother, urged by the sympathy of her love, came to Him.
Wherefore it is said, “And there came unto Him His mother, and, standing without, sent unto Him, calling Him.”
Chrys.: From this it is manifest that His brethren and His mother were not always with Him; but because He was beloved by them, they come from reverence and affection, waiting without.
Wherefore it goes on, “And the multitude sat about Him, &c.”
Bede: The brother of the Lord must not be thought to be the sons of the ever-virgin Mary, as Helvidius says [ed. note: The perpetual virginity of the Mother of God is reckoned by White, Bramhall, Patrick and Pearson, amongst the traditions which have ever been held in the Catholic Church. For an account of the heretics who denied it, see Bp. Pearson on the Creed, Art, 3, p. 272, note x., also Catena Aurea in Matt., p 58, note c], nor the sons of Joseph by a former marriage, as some think, but rather they must be understood to be His relations.
Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: But another Evangelist says, that His brethren did not believe on Him. (Jn 7,5) With which this agrees, which says, that they sought Him, waiting without, and with this meaning the Lord does not mention them as relations.
Wherefore it follows, “And He answered them, saying, Who is My mother or My brethren?”
But He does not here mention His mother and His brethren altogether with reproof, but to shew that a man must honour his own soul above all earthly kindred; wherefore this is fitly said to those who called Him to speak with His mother and relations, as if it were a more useful task than the teaching of salvation.
Bede; see Ambr. in Luc. 6, 36: Being asked therefore by a message to go out, He declines, not as though He refused the dutiful service of His mother, but to shew that He owes more to His Father’s mysteries than to His mother’s feelings. Nor does He rudely despise His brothers, but, preferring His spiritual work to fleshly relationship, He teaches us that religion is the bond of the heart rather than that of the body.
Wherefore it goes on, “And looking round about on them which sat about Him, He said, Behold My mother and My brethren.”
Chrys.: By this, the Lord shews that we should honour those who are relations by faith rather than those (p. 70) who are relations by blood. A man indeed is made the mother of Jesus by preaching Him (ed. note: Nearly the same idea occurs in St. Ambrose, in Lc 2,8); for He, as it were, brings forth the Lord, when he pours Him into the heart of his hearers.
Pseudo-Jerome: But let us be assured that we are His brethren and His sisters if we do the will of the Father; that we may be joint-heirs with Him, for He discerns us not by sex but by our deeds.
Wherefore it goes on: “Whosoever shall do the will of God, &c.”
Theophylact: He does not, therefore, say this, as denying His mother, but as shewing that He is worthy of honour, not only because she bore Christ but on account of her possessing every other virtue.
Bede: By mystically, the mother and brother of Jesus mean the synagogue, (from which according to the flesh He sprung,) and the Jewish people who, while the Saviour is teaching within, come to Him, and are not able to enter, because they cannot understand spiritual things.
But the crowd eagerly enter, because when the Jews delayed, the Gentiles flocked to Christ; but His kindred, who stand without wishing to see the Lord, are the Jews who obstinately remained without, guarding the letter, and would rather compel the Lord to go forth to them to teach carnal things, than consent to enter in to learn spiritual things of Him.
If therefore not even His parents when standing without being acknowledged, how shall we be acknowledged, if we stand without? (ed. note: see Ambr. in Lc 6,37) For the word is within and the light within.

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Archbishop Francesco Follo

Monsignor Francesco Follo è osservatore permanente della Santa Sede presso l'UNESCO a Parigi.

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