Friday, 27th Week of Ordinary Time, Cycle I 2023

Published: October 13, 2023

Bishop Anthony B. Taylor preached the following homily during the Mass with the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem at Immaculate Conception Church in Fort Smith on Friday, Oct. 13, 2023.

Bishop Taylor

At a certain age, kids love to throw things at each other, get each other really dirty. Say hitting your brother with a big, juicy rotten tomato right out of the garden — it makes a satisfying splat and a wonderful mess. Or a handful of mud, just the right consistency. The victim’s appearance is totally changed by a direct hit: physically filthy. But this change is just superficial and easily cleaned up with a good bath.

Mudslinging in public life by adults is similar but much more damaging. Some politicians use every means at their disposal to sully their opponent’s reputation, giving the most negative interpretation possible to everything they ever did. As Knights and Dames of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem, we see these distortions in how things in the Holy Land are presented in the news, especially when it has to do with Palestinians and the injustices to which they are so often subjected.

Mudslingers are not looking for the truth, really. They are just looking for something to promote themselves at the other’s expense. We see this in our elections in this country too. Innocent voters hear this and begin to believe at least part of it, that the victim of the mudslinging must be a little crazy and the electorate would be crazy to vote for him.

As Christians we are called to be witnesses for the truth and to stand up for what is right, even when this is unpopular or inconvenient. Even when we don’t particularly like the person or group that we are defending.

In today’s Gospel Jesus is the victim of mudslinging by his opponents. The scribes say that Jesus has made a pact with the devil and that it’s by the devils power that he casts out demons. In the passage immediately following this one, even some members of Jesus’ family believe at least part of this and conclude that Jesus must be crazy — especially with all his talk earlier about loving enemies saying outrageous things, like the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath.

So they come to bring him home where they can look after him and keep him out of further trouble. Moreover, the honor of their family was at stake and his seemingly irresponsible behavior could have consequences for them.

Jesus defends himself by asking quite logically: “How can Satan cast out Satan? A household divided against itself cannot stand.” But the damage has been done. Mudslingers are not looking for the truth and so many people were beginning to believe the worst about Jesus, that he was not who he said he was. It is at a time like this when people in public life depend most on their loyal followers and the same is true for Jesus.

His disciples are the people who know him the best and so are not deceived by the mudslingers. They have made his cause their cause. And so here Jesus emphasizes that those who believe in him and all that he stands for are as close to him — and in some cases, even closer to him — than some of the members of his own family, in particular those family members who are resistant to his message and even think he has gone crazy. “Who are my mother and my brothers? Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

There is plenty of mudslinging going on in our world today. Everywhere we see people, nations and institutions that seek to promote themselves unfairly at someone else’s expense. We have become so used to being manipulated by fake news and outrageous distortions that we now have a hard time recognizing the truth when we hear it, especially when that truth is difficult and requires a change in our behavior and attitudes.

And this is not limited to politics. This can occur within families, within schools, within any human organization. Whenever someone looks not for the truth but rather only for things to be used against their opponent. As Christians we are called to be witnesses for the truth and to stand up for what is right, even when this is unpopular or inconvenient. Even when we don’t particularly like the person or group that we are defending.

In this way we become Jesus’ brothers and sisters. Jesus is the truth and says, whoever does the will of God is brother and sister and mother to me.”