Members of the Family   1 comment

Above:  Mithras and the Bull

Image Source = User:PHGCOM


Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.


Hebrews 10:1-10 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

For since the law has but  a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices which are continually offered year after year, make perfect those who draw near.  Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered?  If the worshipers had once been cleansed, they would no longer have any consciousness of sin.  But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sin year after year.  For it is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins.

Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said,

Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired,

but a body have you prepared for me;

in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure.

Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God,’

as it is written of me in the roll of the book.

When he said above,

You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings (those are offered according to the law),

then he added,

Behold, I have come to do your will.

He abolishes the first in order to establish the second.  And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Psalm 40:1-11 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

I waited patiently upon the LORD;

he stooped to me and heard my cry.

2 He lifted me out of the desolate pit, out of the mire and clay;

he set my feet upon a high cliff and made my footing sure.

He put a new song in my mouth,

a song of praise to our God;

many shall see, and stand in awe,

and put their trust in the LORD.

Happy are they who trust in the LORD!

they do not resort to evil spirits or turn to false gods.

5 Great things are they that you have done, O LORD my God!

how great your wonders and your plans for us!

there is none who can be compared with you.

6 Oh, that I could make them known and tell them!

but they are more than I can count.

7 In sacrifice and offering you take no pleasure

(you have given me ears to hear you);

Burnt-offering and sin-offering you have not required,

and so I said, “Behold I come.

9 In the roll of the book it is written concerning me:

‘I love to do your will, O my God;

your law is deep in my heart.’”

10 I proclaimed righteousness in the great congregation;

behold, I did not restrain my lips;

and that, O LORD, you know.

11 Your righteousness have I not hidden in my heart;

I have spoken of your faithfulness and your deliverance;;

I have not concealed your love and faithfulness from the great congregation.

Mark 3:31-35 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

And his mother and his brethren came; and standing outside they sent to him and called him.

Your mother and your brethren are outside, asking for you.

And he replied,

Who are my mother and my brethren?

And looking around on those who sat about him, he said,

Here are my mother and my brethren.  Whoever does the will of God is my brother, and sister, and mother.


The Collect:

Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ is the light of the world: Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ’s glory, that he may be known, worshipped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


Sometimes I read a Bible story and think about how nice and comforting it is.  Holy Writ contains many such incidents.  It also contains those parts that cause me discomfort.  Among these is the reading from Mark.  Mary and some “brethren,” who could be her children by Joseph (They were married, and presumably in love, so what is this theology of perpetual virginity?) are concerned about Jesus.  They do not understand Jesus, whose mental health they question.  Then Jesus says this family members are those who do the will of God.  Translation:  “My flesh and blood do not understand me, so I adopt you, who listen to me, as my family.  Ours is a spiritual kinship.”

I feel the need to make a disclaimer, out of complete honesty.  As I write these words, I sit adjacent to a corner Marian shrine.  I count six images of Mary (mostly three-dimensional) plus a two-dimensional image of Joseph with young Jesus.  I like the Holy Family.  Yet Mary, as great as she was (and continues to be), did not always understand her firstborn son.  Part of the credibility of many Bible stories flows from the unflattering portraits of sympathetic figures–in this case, Mary of Nazareth, Mother of God.

Through Jesus all of us can become members of the family of God.  Through his death and resurrection we have adoption and no need to fear the power of death and evil.  We are not alone, and the power of God is peerless.

Mithras was a deity of Persian origin.  Mythology stated that his sacrifice of a bull atoned for the sins of the world.  Mithras was also the God of the Sun, and his cult was a major competitor of early Christianity in the Roman Empire.  Adherents to Mithraism, a male cult popular with Roman soldiers, underwent baptism, swore to adhere to a strict moral code, and attended rituals similar to a Mass.  Yet Mithras never walked the face of the earth or had dinner at anybody’s house.  He was a figment of many imaginations.  And, as the author of Hebrews states plainly, the blood of bulls cannot take away sins.

We Christians follow the genuine article, not a figment of imaginations.  And we are, by grace and faith, spiritual family members of that genuine article.  Will we strive to be properly thankful children of God?  I hope so.  We can never repay God for grace, but we can develop a healthy relationship with God and follow that wherever it leads.





Adapted from this post:


Posted January 5, 2012 by neatnik2009 in Hebrews 10, Mark 3, Psalm 40

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