ColumnsNaming Grace

Blood is thicker than water

I can just imagine how I would react if I were in earshot of one of my sons saying, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” I think I would barge in and “remind” him of my blood, sweat and tears: “Who else went through nine months of pregnancy, spent 10 hours in labor, cooked thousands of meals and provided you with a good education? Is anyone here more important than your mama, your brothers, your sisters — your flesh and blood? Have I not taught you that blood is thicker than water?”

In this Sunday’s Scripture, Jesus travels to Capernaum with his newly chosen 12. The hometown crew gathers in curiosity at the return of this native son, who has reportedly been healing and preaching. Yet while home, Jesus fails to acknowledge his family. Instead, Jesus “looks around at those seated in the circle and says, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.’” Does Jesus not appreciate his mother Mary — his blood?

“Blood is thicker than water.” Many a mama has used the term to place a little pressure on adult children to come home for Christmas or to attend a relative’s birthday party. And, blood is important. As a mother, one of my deepest desires is for my children to stay in relationship with their siblings and families — their blood.

But the term, “blood is thicker than -water” actually comes from an ancient saying, “The blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb.” The blood of the covenant, sealed with the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus and instituted in the Eucharist, is thicker than water. The blood of the covenant — the blood of Jesus, received in the Eucharist, pulsating through our veins, creates a new reality of family.

Christian sisters and brothers are from all nations and languages, each drinking from the common cup of Jesus’ blood in the Eucharist. And so, the immigrant from the Congo, the woman from Mexico or the young person from Burma may be spiritually closer than a sibling or cousin living next door.

A woman inquired whether I was African-American, based on my black curly hair. I replied, “No, though I certainly may have an African gene.” She responded warmly, “I wanted to know if we were sisters.” The truth is if she is a Christian, we are in a sisterhood forged through the blood of Christ.

As parents/grandparents, we name grace — God’s saving presence — each time we emphasize our relationship with Jesus as the root of our parental love. We name grace each time we remind our children the importance of doing God’s will. We name grace each time we bring our children to the Eucharist to receive his body and blood — a participation in the blood of the covenant.

Nowhere in Scripture does it say Mary felt snubbed by her son’s apparent omission; Mary understood her role in her son’s life — saying; “yes” to God in all things. I’m not sure I would have been so kind, though I do understand the importance of the blood of Christ in forming Christian bonds. Therefore, I hope and pray our children remain in a lifelong relationship with us, and their siblings, through their faith in Jesus — as the blood of the covenant is thicker than water! Now, that’s good news!

How do you acknowledge a brother or sister in Christ?

What will you teach your child about our eucharistic bonds?

Naming Grace in the Domestic Church reflects on the Sunday readings through the lens of a parent/grandparent, aiding parents in their vital task as “first preachers” of the good news in the domestic church — the church of the home.