Although Jesus seemed to be rejecting his family members in today’s Gospel, what he was rejecting was the practice of sharing trust only with blood relatives. It is a fine thing that members of the Sunni tribes are kindly to one another. It is a good thing that members of Shiite tribes are kindly to one another. In both cases what is wrong is that members of both tribes restrict their benevolence to their own kin.
The cause of most unhappiness throughout Africa and the Middle East stems from people seeing others as hateful aliens. It seems that Hindus will always hate Muslims, and Jews will hate Palestinians.
There is so much of tribal hatred in the Bible. God’s punishment of Cain gives us a glimpse of ancient tribalism and ancient hatreds. In punishing Cain, God made him a wanderer on the face of the earth. Cain objected that anyone who saw him would kill him. (It was a time when to play safe you killed strangers because they were apt to kill you.) To guard Cain’s life, God put a tattoo on his forehead. The tattoo was such that it warned strangers that if they killed Cain God would kill seven of theirs in retaliation.
The Genesis story of Abraham’s covenant with God reveals the wide mistrust of the times. How did Abraham go about it when God suggested they enter a covenant together? Abraham couldn’t read or write, and there were no lawyers to draw up the covenant. . Abraham prepared the covenant ceremony the way it was done between tribes that wanted to call off their mutual killings. He had his men dig a three foot trench cross an open field, then he had them split a heifer, a ram, and a goat in two, putting the halves on opposite sides of the trench. He waited until dusk, then when he saw God’s torch coming toward him from the far side, he advanced toward it saying, “If my tribesmen are hostile to you may we be split in two like these carcasses.”
Warm feelings towards family members have always been a fine thing. All such relationships are included in the commandment that we honor fathers and mothers. However, I feel that family love should be a schooling ground for loving others. My sister and her husband loved each other enough to have thirteen kids, but that just prepared them to make room for a good few others when they were temporarily homeless.