Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Mothering Sunday and the spiritual family

Mothering Sunday approaches, but it is hard to find Jesus making many positive comments about biological parenthood. On one occasion, according to Matthew (12.47), when Mary and members of his family come to see Him, he leaves them standing outside, and says that his disciples are his true mother and brothers. Elsewhere, he says that anyone who loves his mother or father more than they love Him is not worthy of Him (Mt 10.37). Matthew's Jesus even says that He came to "set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother" (Mt 10.35).
Also in Matthew is that phrase much loved by anti-Catholics where Jesus tells His disciples to "call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven" (Mt 23.9). So, they say, we should not call priests "Father." The fact that in the same breath He tells us to call nobody "teacher" seems to pass their attention, especially when they are quoting their favourite Doctor So-and-so to prove their point, forgetting that "Doctor" is simply the Latin for "teacher." Such are the blinkers of prejudice.
Jesus and His Apostles do offer more favourable visions of family life, however. As we saw, Jesus described his disciples as his family. St Paul tells the Corinthians that he was made their "father in Christ Jesus through the Gospel" (1 Cor 4.14-15), and both he, Peter and John repeatedly write to their fellow Christians as "children" and "sons." And emphatically, on the point of crucifixion, Jesus gives Mary over to be the mother of John and his Christian community (Jn 19.26). The Christian family of the Church has known spiritual mothers and fathers since New Testament times.
So, Jesus did bequeath a positive model of parenthood to the Church, and it is recorded in the Bible. We all know that good parenthood is not an automatic biological certainty: there can be terrible biological parents and wonderful adoptive parents. Of course, the opposite can also be true, and the clergy's record of behaviour in loco parentis has too often been shameful of late. But what Jesus does make certain is that our true parents and true family are the ones who nurture us spiritually, in a relationship that leads us beyond ourselves and to God - whether this happens to coincide with our biological relationships or not.

No comments:

Post a Comment