People tell tales about other people all the time. Often times there is some small basis in fact about the story, but the centerpiece, and the most memorable part, is the exaggerated piece which bears no resemblance to reality. This is why gossip is so dangerous, so hurtful: its lack of foundation in accuracy.
Our Gospel begins and ends today with Jesus and his family. He has returned home and the crowds are running amok and are thickly packed together, being a perfect place for gossip to spread about the individual they have all come to see. His family hears from the midst of the crowd that "he has gone out of his mind" and believe what they have been told. They set out to get to him so that they can "restrain him."
Our Gospel ends with Jesus rebuking his mother, brothers and sisters who can't get into the place where he has been teaching and healing. He says, looking at the crowd near to him, "Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother." Jesus is no fool, he knows what his family has heard and come to believe about him. His rebuke is a wake up call to them: You know me better than these people to whom you are listening!! What is the matter with you?
Listening and participating in gossip, story-telling, about those whom we know (and those whom we don't) is harmful to everyone involved. It can lock us in a room, looking out a window, as opposed to actually participating in, enjoying and understanding the life and individuals bubbling all around us. This is certainly not the main point of our reading from Mark today, but it is a take-away on which everyone should reflect and incorporate into how we operate in the world.
Copyright 2011, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.
Photo: National Cathedral, 2006, jfd+