Those outside are the synagogue

Friends in Christ, a teacher of Scripture once said, when you come to a passage which seems – very strange – be convinced that something surprising is to be found there. Today is one of those passages that often makes us scratch our head. Jesus’ mother and brethren try to see him, they are outside of the house where he is; but our Lord stops and takes a moment to teach. He says, ‘My mother and my brethren are those who hear the Word of God and keep it.’
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Now Christ in no way is disrespecting his mother here, that would obviously be a sin – and Jesus clearly did not have any blood brothers; they probably were cousins or relatives which; in Aramaic the same word was for cousins, brothers, or relatives, and it may have come into the Greek this way.  But what do the saints have to say about this passage?
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St. Ambrose says that there is a mystical meaning here. Israel under the Old Law was often symbolized as a mother of God’s people, just as we refer to Mother Church, today; St. Ambrose says, in a mystical sense, Jesus’ mother and brethren – the Jewish religion – is standing outside. He says: ‘By this symbol, Christ is saying that those who enter inside the Church, who follow him, are to be preferred to the old religion of the synagogue which is still outside.
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St. Bede the Venerable says, ‘People cannot enter in where Christ is teaching, if those people refuse to understand him spiritually. In this scene, we see that many people, surely Gentiles, have entered into the house where Jesus was teaching, because when the Jews rejected Christ, symbolized by the mother and brothers outside – when they rejected Christ, the Gentiles flocked to him.
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Those who stand outside wishing to see Christ, are they who insist on the letter of the Law rather than living the spirit of the Law. St. Jerome says the same thing: ‘His mother and brothers symbolize the synagogue and the Jewish Law, which stands outside. Although they had the power like everyone else to come in, yet they do not approach.
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Gregory the Great says, because the synagogue lost true spiritual discernment, it is not acknowledged, and remains outside. Those outside represent the Old Israel, the mother of the nation. They are free to enter into the New Israel, Mother Church. But no longer is the Old Israel the mother. To be the Lord’s true brothers and sisters and Mother, one must seek the Word of God – that is, Jesus. They must hear the Word of God, and keep it.

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