The Family as Kingdom

This coming Sunday is the 27th in Ordinary Time of Year B. The gospel is taken from Mark 10:2-12 and involves a question about divorce whose real intent is to bring Jesus into conflict with what the Pharisees regard as the clear teaching of Holy Scripture. In the verses that immediately follow the focus changes from Mosaic law, divorce and adultery to the image of family: And people were bringing children to him that he might touch them, but the disciples rebuked them.  When Jesus saw this he became indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not prevent them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.” Then he embraced them and blessed them, placing his hands on them. (Mark 10:13-16)

It is fitting that a passage on children should follow one on marriage since both were especially vulnerable in first century society. But this passage first addresses the Kingdom of God and what prevents people from being included. The Pharisees and scribes had already been rebuked for substituting the traditions of men for God’s law and intention. Jesus made an example of service to a little child to overturn the disciples’ arguments about which of them was the greatest in 9:33–37. That episode was followed by the disciples’ trying to prohibit an outsider from using Jesus’ name (9:38–39). This episode begins with the disciples’ attempting to enforce the standard social norms that children are not deserving of attention or time.

There are two sides to this teaching: (a) the disciples who need to not keep excluding folks but to open the gates to all, and (b) to all those to whom the Kingdom is opened, to realize that it is all gift – and to received it as would a child.

This passage is not only well placed with the passage affirming the sanctity of marriage, but serves as a bridge to next week’s gospel when the man comes to Jesus asking what he must do to receive eternal life: “Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him, ‘You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ At that statement his face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.

Perhaps the man had earned much, but would not accept what he had not earned. He did not understand the gift. Can he be saved? “For human beings it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God.” It is the gift; children have no problems receiving gifts.

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