In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen!
In 1972, Francis Coppola, inspired by a novel, created and directed what is now considered to be one of the classic mafia movies of all times. I am of course speaking about “The Godfather”, a story about a syndicate Italian Mafiosi family. Apart from the main story line of the glorified gangster
criminal life of early mafias in the United States, there was a very deep and spiritual message in the Godfather series. Family! There is nothing more sacred or important then family. To quote, the character of Don Michael Corleone, “The only wealth in this world is children. More than all the money, power on Earth, you are my treasure.” (The Godfather Part III, 1990) And something we come to quickly realize in the movie is that color, blood, geography, age or professions are not the only definitions of family. We know this to be true everywhere, not just in movies.
There are countless types of families. There are the traditional families, with parents, children and extended families. There are broken families, through divorce, death or other misfortune. There are families from same cultures such as Armenians, Italians, Irish, Germans, etc. There are mixed families, Black and White, Asian and Caucasian, etc. There are also families of mixed individuals. As the simple yet, deep statement says, a “Brother from another mother and sister from another mister.” For those who may not have understood this reference, it means individuals who are so close and love each other so much, that though they share a different biological family, they consider their relationship to be equal to a blood relation. If you go to Armenia, Greece, Italy, anywhere in the Middle East or if you speak to people from these traditional cultures, the way we speak about our cousins, friends and close people is “my brother or my sister”. As my Indian friend once said, “all the adults in India are my Aunties or Uncles”. As Christian’s here in the Church, we refer to each other as spiritual brothers and sisters. We all call God, our Father, and the Church, our mother. We are anointed and baptized as “adopted children of God” as St. Paul teaches. Yes, families come in all shapes and sizes, formed and deformed, mixed or broken, physical or spiritual, therefore, if there are so many different variations of family, what is the unifying or underlying bond, which should define family for us?
In the Gospel of Luke, while Jesus is preaching to his audience, we read, “Then his mother and his brothers came to him, but they could not reach him for the crowd. And he was told, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, desiring to see you.”But he said to them, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.” (v. 20-21) Imagine trying to go see your son, you brother, cousin, sister, Aunt and Uncle, who is famous and is always traveling and people are making appointments to see them. You being a family member would think, you have unlimited access and yet, the response you get seems to be a rejection. Now, we don’t know whether Jesus got up and went to them, or if he let them in, I’d think it is safe to assume that yes he did. However, what Christ here is emphasizing is that family, my family, your family, His family is not only limited to a shared bloodline or even a last name. It is not a skin color, culture or shared experience. Rather, for God the sacred family bond is defined by a unified belief, mentality and action – “those who hear the word of God and do it.”
Much like the Armenian word for family, which is ent-danig (ընտանիք). When we look at the meaning of the word, it is defined as “those under the same roof”. This is not a physical roof but the existential roof. God, is our head, the umbrella or roof that covers over us and under which we are gathered. Or as Christ Jesus says right before his crucifixion,“…How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings,…” (Luke 13:34) Again another image of us being covered up and together under God likening the Church to a mother hen protecting her chicks. But it is not just that we share our belief that God is our Father and that we are a family under his roof but additionally, we must live our life with His commandments. As my father always said, as I am sure all of our fathers did, “my roof, my rules.” Same thing goes for God. If we accept and want to be part of the ent-danig (family) of God, we have to accept and live our life accordingly. What does this look like?
“Forgive my trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us” (Matt. 6:12-14); “Love your neighbor as yourself”(Mark 12:31); “Do unto other’s, as you would have them do unto you” (Matt. 7:12); “first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.” (Matt. 7:5) etc. Or as Christ more clearly says (John 13:15), “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.”
My dears, we are all family here. The person next to you (in the pew or the person watching the live stream) is your brother and sister; I am your brother. Whether we agree with each other, whether we share the same political views, whether we share the same skin tone or even the same language, each of us here and each of us out there are part of the same family. No not the proverbial family of brothers and sisters from other mothers and misters, but a family from the same Father, God and the same Mother, our Holy Church – we are all family. And if we want to remain part of that family, and be able to gain access to God our Father, if we want to be able to freely come and go into the presence of God – we must also live our life by the teachings of our Heavenly Father and Mother. Or else, we will always remain on the outside; we will always be left out of that covering.
So regardless of what kind of physical family we come from, regardless of if we are Armenian or not, whether we speak the language or not, whether we share blood or not, whether we come from brokenness or wealth, here, under God, we belong to the same family, and family is sacred. Family is more important then any job, wealth, money, etc. and when we realize that we are all family, then we will realize how truly blessed we are in this life. We are brothers and sisters, because God is our Father, and “He destined us in love to be his sons [and daughters] through Jesus Christ…” (Ephesians 1:5) by whom we are made worthy to glorify the Holy Trinity eternally, Amen!