Family First – A Reflection Part One

Part One

“While he was still speaking to the crowds, his mother and his brothers appeared outside, wishing to speak with him.  Someone told him, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, asking to speak with you.”  But he said in to the one who told him, “Who is my mother?  Who are my brothers?”  And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, and sister, and mother.” (Matt. 12:46-50)

The impetus to write this following reflection comes from the courage of a priest to question our wholesale acceptance of the phrase “Family First”, during a homily given on the above passage.

The reflection is radical, in the true sense of the word.

But maybe it will germinate within, and some small part of it will take root.  Maybe it will begin a dialogue.

 This Gospel passage begs the question of ‘family’ for a follower of Christ.

The title above ‘Family First’, risks becoming, and has become a trite catch phrase, –

a catch phrase that has been quickly adhered to by well-meaning Christians.

We can feel good about something in our society –

or so we think.

I would suggest that it is a trap deftly set by the ever vigilant evil one!

that conveniently opens the door to an acceptable ‘corporate’ church…

adopting society’s values, taking the wide road, thus secularizing our faith.

Adherence to the genetic family becomes a cover for many of our world’s sins!

Sins in the name of faith!

We must do ‘everything’ for the well being of our family.

In our western world ‘everything’ is translated as

‘all that money can buy’!

Or, translated in the old phrase –

‘Keeping up with the Jones’s’

This spirit of competition is rampant – hardly even recognized as such

within the faith community.

It is just accepted!-

No!  It is taken for granted!  Rejoiced in!

To have the latest of whatever in our home –

to remodel every so many years.

Society says that it is necessary that

children have …….

and that parents deserve …….

And they will not be whole, accepted or whatever

unless they are a part of this and this and this!

And in order to have all of this and this and this

for our children  and ourselves –

And in order that the home has the latest of whatever

it is necessary that both parents work.

It is only possible and financially responsible to have

two children.

In order for this to be so

comes the next step stealthily insert by the evil one:

it is necessary to think for ourselves as adults, as parents –

soon societies mores are adopted and the church

is seen as out of touch.

A deaf ear is turned

to the teaching and guidelines of our faith,

trust in the lord is put aside.

The call of our baptism is forgotten.

The slope of societies catch phrase is a moral downhill all the way.

Of course it only makes financial sense

to take contraceptives, and to court the possibility of

the expediency of abortion.

Faith gets what is left over in our life,

slowly becoming a mindless fulfillment of weekly obligation.

The integration of our life within the faith community

must fit conveniently into the hurried, harried-mess of our lifestyle.

The nurturing of family becomes translated into business.

The faith into which we were baptised,

defines the primary family to which we belong!

It is the family of our Creator

the family of our Saviour

the family of the Trinity

the family of the Church

established by the Saviour!

And thus –

The family of Humanity!

We discover this family through contemplation –

through relationship with our brother, Jesus…

definitely a blood relationship

because he has made it thus!

Genetic,therefore,  in the eternal sense of the word.

And, through relationship with our brothers and sisters in Jesus,

we discover the richness and mission of this family –

“That they may become one Father …

So that the world may believe it was you who sent me.

They do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world.

…..  Keep them in the truth!” (Jn. 17:16 ff)

This tie is a zillion times more binding.

While it involves the genetic family –

it is more compelling than the genetic family,

taken on its own.

It is more demanding –

encompassing all the demands we glowingly speak of
when we are sounding sanctimonious about ‘family’, –
such as time, relationships, nurturing.

It might be said that

the genetic family is the extended family

Of the primary family –

that is, the Family of Faith

with its universal call

and its eternal umbilical cord.

Baptism catapults us into this one and only eternal family!

So when we speak of ‘family first’ –

this is the family that is first –

 The Family of Faith!

This is how the Scriptural genealogies place families –

within the family of faith over generations.

This is done recognizing all the warts, and blessings, that exist in the faith family.

The family in this context is not isolated

Does not stand alone!

We tend to gloss over the passages that we consider harsh –

because Jesus ‘didn’t really mean it that way, did he?’

Well –

Yes, he did and probably even more so!

When you take the risk to believe that our

children, siblings, relatives

yes, even parents –


children, siblings, relatives and

even parents

to a whole host of people,

we can begin to dare to understand the community in

Acts of the Apostles!

We can begin to understand and say the word

‘Abba’ – Daddy!

We can dare to ‘launch out into the deep’

leaving home,

father, mother, family

for the sake of our

Abba Family which is


here and now binding.

Leaving home in faith!

Leaving home

As a defined locale,

as a structural security –

Living with an open door.

Daring to put into reality

What we sing about –

“Our lives are in your hands, Lord!”

Leaving, thereby, the door open to the possibility

That maybe, just maybe –

The call of Jesus spoken of in the Gospels,

Is for all times, all places, and all peoples of faith!

Let us remember that there is no

marriage and taking in marriage in heaven.

This is not to degrade the genetic family!

It, marriage and family, launches us into the everlasting family

here and now!

The ultimate purpose of which is to transform the here and now

into the kingdom of God.

Just as Hannah presented Samuel to the Lord,

just as Mary presented Jesus to the Lord

so every believing parent

presents every child to the Lord!

Presents, here and now

for eternity, that begins here and now!

This is not a nicety!

It is a spiritually profound, radical step

that launches a radical life –

having the power to change

the secular world!

This is a radical call that we have very hesitantly,

very reluctantly, dared to put our big toe into

Over the centuries!

It is fine to pour the water over my head –

but do not immerse me into that water!

What might happen if we launched out into the depths,

As the apostles and first Christians did!

The truth of this,

its great depth of meaning,

is rarely delved into,

rarely exposed!

It is easier to say

‘family is everything’

and stay spiritually, materially, and peripherally cozy!

And forget that our ‘Daddy’ –

From birth to eternity

is everybody’s Abba!

It is radically challenging to note


at twelve years of age


responding to his Mother’s anguish

is thereby creating more pain –

saying to her, in her grief

“Did you not know

that I must be about my Father’s business”.(Lk 2:49)

It was quite obviously

not the business of Joseph, his earthly father.

He was also upset by Jesus’ behaviour!

And Jesus went home with them

preparing to  continue his Father’s business!

And, one of the first concrete actions he would take

calls people from their homes, family

and family businesses.

Did he really mean this?