“Who are my mother and my brothers?” Jesus asks in Mark 3.33. It is a poignant question, one worthy to ponder as we face this turbulent life. It seems to me that while the biblical narrative in some cases puts an emphasis on family, it also deconstructs the very idea of family.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu borrows the term ubuntu from his immediate culture and proposes that we are all part of the same organism:
One of the sayings in our country is Ubuntu – the essence of being human. Ubuntu speaks particularly about the fact that you can't exist as a human being in isolation. It speaks about our interconnectedness. You can't be human all by yourself, and when you have this quality – Ubuntu – you are known for your generosity. We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas you are connected and what you do affects the whole World. When you do well, it spreads out; it is for the whole of humanity. (Desmond Tutu, 2008)
This echoes Paul's words of us being one body:As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also ChristFor in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit.h14
Now the body is not a single part, but many.If a foot should say, “Because I am not a hand I do not belong to the body,” it does not for this reason belong any less to the body.Or if an ear should say, “Because I am not an eye I do not belong to the body,” it does not for this reason belong any less to the body.If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be?But as it is, God placed the parts, each one of them, in the body as he intended.If they were all one part, where would the body be?But as it is, there are many parts, yet one body.The eye cannot say to the hand, “I do not need you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I do not need you.”Indeed, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are all the more necessary,and those parts of the body that we consider less honorable we surround with greater honor, and our less presentable parts are treated with greater propriety.whereas our more presentable parts do not need this. But God has so constructed the body as to give greater honor to a part that is without it,so that there may be no division in the body, but that the parts may have the same concern for one another.If [one] part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy. (1 Cor 12.12-26)
While this has often been preached as being words about only the church, it seems that Jesus himself often included not just those who would follow him but everyone into the folds of whom is accepted and included.
Again John 3.16 talks about gods love not for the individual Christian, not for the church but for the world (cosmos). We are all integral parts of this world, a world that god declared good, and part of a humanity that god declared better (very good). “If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share it's joy”. Everyone one you meet is part of this global family, the air I breath in is the air you breathe out, we are so intimately connected down to the quantum level.
Which is why my family is not defined by who lives in my house or with whom I share blood ties. My family is all of humankind, everyone I meet is a wonderful work of art and god is the artist that created them all, in this sense everyone I meet is holy and worthy to be honoured, respected and loved.
Reading this the day after, I wonder if it takes this concept far enough. Maybe we cannot stop at humankind, maybe I must, like St. Francis, recognise that the sun and moon, the bird and the bee, the brook and the tree are also part of my family and must be respected and cared for equally. Maybe I must realise that not only is every person holy but that every place and plant is equally sacred as part of the cosmos that god loves.
Life is my religion. Being alive is my daily spiritual practice. Love is my rule. Humankind is my family. Authentic friendships is my church. The kingdom of god runs through my veins. Jesus is my brother. Becoming and being all that I am is my calling. Helping you become and be all that you are is my ministry. My deepest feelings is my guide. All living things are my teacher.