Our Family in Christ – Br. Nicholas Bartoli

Matthew 12.47-56

Role models are very important, starting with our first role models, our parents. At some point that tiny circle starts widening to the rest of the family, and, much to the dismay and frustration of parents, by the time children become teenagers they begin taking their role models from their peer groups. In some cases, especially when relationships at home are impoverished, a young person’s peer group, with whom they share values, concerns, and a sense of identity, becomes for them like a new family.

Now if, like Jesus, our primary concern is doing the will of God, then it makes sense that our most important role models, those we might consider our larger family in the world, would be those with the same priority. And when we find those who gladly surrender to God’s will, we naturally relate to them as good role models in Christ. 

The version of today’s gospel reading found in the Gospel of Thomas has a line at the end saying that those who do God’s will are those that enter God’s Kingdom. So, with that in mind, choosing our role models, our new family, becomes an important part of the journey towards God’s Kingdom. And as far as discerning our family of sojourners in Christ, we can simply take Jesus’ advice, watching out for those who selflessly allow God’s will be done.

For example, I often feel that trees, rocks, and flowers all make wonderful role models. It’s hard to imagine being adopted into a family with more practice in surrendering to God’s will and resting peaceably in God’s Kingdom. Saint Francis introduced us to this family: Brother Sun, Sister Moon, Brother Wind, Sister Water, Brother Fire, and Sister Mother Earth. And to that list I’m sure Francis wouldn’t mind if we added Brother Tree, Sister Flower, and Brother Rock, not to mention the rabbits, chipmunks, and birds.

The natural world, creation, was and is the first holy scripture, God’s first Word from eternal silence. Perhaps because of this intimacy with the ongoing creation process, the outpouring of God made manifest in the world through Christ, all these simple creatures of the earth perfectly express the peace and joy of simply being. That’s why they make such good role models, and it’s why we would be honored to consider ourselves part of their family.

Brother Tree, Sister Flower, and Brother Rock are invitations to just rest in God’s Presence as they do. They model for us simply being as we are, and not trying so hard to be something else, something less than or more than we are. Our creaturely brothers and sisters thus become not just role models, but guides and gateways to God’s Kingdom, that place where we let go of all our effort to define ourselves and our neighbors, and instead offer only our willingness for God to express Godself through us.

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  1. Rich Weeks on August 22, 2021 at 12:27

    Ever since I was a young boy, before accepting the presence of God in all things, I was fascinated with the natural world or what little I could see of it, living in brick row houses in a suburb of Boston. I would look upon a seedling breaking through a crack in a sidewalk, a mother bird tirelessly feeding her fledglings, a beautiful flower being tended by a bumble bee, or the swarming an ant colony-I would view all these moments of nature with a sense of awe. However, there was a vacuum behind that feeling until the day I accepted these natural wonders as a part of God’s creation. Now, when I see the natural world around me, I thank God for the beauty of his creation, for giving me the eyes to see it, the mind with which to realize it’s intricacy and fullness, and the heart with which to appreciate the Loving God that his creation reflects.

  2. Sally Baynton on August 18, 2021 at 22:15

    This is simply beautiful! I would have to add Sister Bees to this list! As a beekeeper, I am amazed how God made such unique and wonderful creatures. They are what they are…until they die. They know what they are put on this earth to do…and they do it! They don’t want to be anything but servants to their queen…like I only want to be a servant to my King!

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