Readings: 2 Timothy 1:1-8 or Titus 1:1-5; Psalm 96; Mark 3:31-35
'Blood is thicker than water' is an old and familiar saying. It means that family relationships - the ties of blood - are the ones we return to during the course of our lives. Very few other relationships are as strong or as important in our lives as are our original bonds with our parents, our brothers, our sisters, our children. Yet in today's gospel Jesus claims that there is something thicker than blood: 'Anyone who does the will of God, that person is my brother and sister and mother'. There is a bond, a relationship, a tie between people, which is deeper, stronger and more significant than family ties of flesh and blood.
What is he talking about? What bond or relationship between people is thicker than blood? He describes it as 'doing the will of God'. Each time the Eucharist is celebrated, this same relationship is called a 'covenant': 'This is the chalice of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant'. To be related to other people 'in the blood of Christ' is the bond, the relationship, the covenant, that is deeper and stronger and more signicant than any ties, even those to my parents.
'Covenant' is a common word in the Bible. Meaning agreement or treaty it refers to the relationship between God and His people. At different times and in various circumstances God established and renewed a covenant with His people - through Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, and so on.Through these treaties or agreements the people's dependence on God as Creator and Lord is recognized. God's wish to share His own life of love with His people is re-affirmed: 'I will be your God and you will be my people' echoes through the Scriptures; 'I want to be your God and I want you to be my people' is what it means.
God wants to share His life with us, to be bonded with us, to have dealings with us, to share friendship with us. Often the covenant is compared to marriage, with God as the husband of His people and Israel (or creation, or the Church) as God's bride.
A new bond exists between all who are members of the covenant-people, the Church. We can recognise each other not just as fellow human beings but as fellow members of God's family, children together of God our Father, heirs together of life in our Father's kingdom. Obviously my parents remain my parents. But because we are all believers, my mother is also my sister and my father is my brother in this 'family of God' where we all try to do the will of the Father.
The new covenant is the agreement established in the blood of Christ. The word became flesh, dwelt among us, shared our expereince from within, and loved us to the limit of his strength - even to dying on the cross. In Jesus the human race has been faithful, loving and obedient to God. He is the mediator of this covenant. He is the perfect image of God in human form. He seals the relationship between God and us by shedding his blood for us.
All of us who follow Jesus live within this covenant. The bond that is thicker than blood is possible for us. The new covenant demands of us faithfulness to Jesus' way of love. It seals for us God's commitment to His work of creation. It reaffirms in the most striking way that God has loved us with an everlasting love.