Imagining the Gospel: Who Are My Mother and Brothers and Sisters?

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“Imagining the Gospel Scene” is a series from the Jesuit Media Lab. On occasional Sundays throughout this liturgical year, creators in the JML community will respond to the day’s Gospel passage through the practice of Ignatian contemplation, or what is sometimes called “imaginative prayer.”

In his Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius of Loyola invites participants to place ourselves in Gospel scenes using the imagination, relying on our senses to develop a distinctive, personal perspective on a given story — and thereby getting to know Christ better. After praying with the Gospel using their imaginations, our contributors will create a piece of art flowing from their experience — a painting, poem, short story, song, photograph or work in another medium.

Today’s installment is artwork and a reflection by Jen Norton.

Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time: June 9, 2024
Mark 3:20-35

“Who Are My Mother and Brothers and Sisters?” 14 x 11,” acrylic on wood, by Jen Norton

Artist Statement

People tell me I’m lucky to be an artist. And yes, I am … but not because it’s easy! In fact, art is one of those careers where, until you prove yourself with some consistent monetary success, most people think you’re crazy. They can’t see how it leads you to your most authentic self. My work is my mission and I do feel lucky to be an artist, but there is real work behind the scenes and a real challenge to balance time for creative focus with all the “shoulds” and “have-tos” of life. Other professional artists understand this. They’re my people. With them, there’s a baseline understanding, a communication shorthand that allows us to skip over the small talk and get to deeper matters. The spirit of God hovers over the deep.

In this reading, Jesus has just summoned “His People”: the twelve who will eventually take his word to the world. He has been exhibiting his father’s creativity all over Galilee, performing miracles and teaching about his kingdom. Now he and his friends have returned home for some much-needed rest and a good meal.

The reading doesn’t specify who exactly is with him. It may include the twelve, maybe others who are close to him, and probably some actual family members. I assume that they are people who already know him and believe in his mission. Everyone’s tired and ready to kick their sandals off, have a cool drink and share a laugh. But alas — now the crowd is clamoring at his door like paparazzi. They believe they have a right to be there because he is a public figure. They don’t care about him; they’re only curious or worse. Like a pack of rabid dogs, they bark out their opinions, conspiracies and judgments about him, but offer no love. They think he’s crazy.

We face the same problem today. We have every desire for happy family dinners and time with friends. But we can get accosted by the noise of media, work and fears. There are a lot of modern distractions that keep us from connection. Life feels crazy! How do we set boundaries? Should we set boundaries? Yes … and Jesus shows us how.

He doesn’t yell back at the crowd and fight with them. Rather, he offers a counter-conspiracy to consider. He asks them to really think about where strength comes from, unity or division? What are they really looking for? Those who care more about judgement will stay outside and ruminate. They can’t imagine doing anything else. They were never interested in a real connection anyway.

Those who are truly searching for something more true, beautiful and good will set aside the need to be right and opt for communion. I’m sure Jesus’ mother — and hopefully the brothers who seem to be at the door on this day — picked that option! We can pick that option too. It’s not our business to know everything. We only need to do one thing: believe that Jesus is who he says he is.

In my artwork, 12 people (both men and women in this illustration) and Jesus sit around a table. As they join hands in blessing the food and each other, their connection creates a boundary of love strong enough to drive back the noise and accusations. Together they will build something beautiful. Together they will defend it. Together they will support each other in loving-kindness over self-righteousness. They — and we — are invited to be Jesus’ mother and brothers and sisters.

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