When Moses led the children of Israel through the Red Sea, and the Egyptians who pursued them were drowned, it was a momentous event in the history of salvation. God was working another in a series of great miracles to save His Chosen People, the twelve tribes descended from the twelve children of Jacob. At the same time, this event prefigured the true salvation brought to us by Jesus. As the Israelites passed through the waters of the Red Sea from slavery to freedom, so we pass through the waters of Baptism from slavery to sin to the freedom of the children of God.
Herein is an important difference, that is highlighted by the second reading today. In the Old Testament, membership in the Chosen People was dependent on being directly descended from Abraham through Jacob, or you just had to become a part of a household that was. To lay the groundwork for His plan of redemption, God prepared a relatively small group of people, working within the social structures of the time and place, which were based on blood relationships. In the New Covenant of salvation through the sacrifice of Christ, it no longer matters for good or ill to whom you are related. Salvation comes through the Jews, but is for all people. The only condition is that we strive to “do the will of the heavenly Father”, by living according to the teachings of Christ. That is what makes us participate in the new People of God, which is the Church; that is why Jesus calls His Twelve apostles and His other followers His “brother, sister, and mother”, even though very few of them were actually His family members.
The Protestants sometimes use this Gospel reading as an argument against Mary’s special role in the life of the Church. They are really missing the point. Jesus is not snubbing Mary; He is making the point that holiness and salvation is the result of our own personal response to God’s grace. Mary is, in fact, a great example of “doing the will of the heavenly Father”. We have very few of her words recorded in the New Testament, but one of them is where she accepts God’s will for her at the Annunciation, and another is where she tells the servants at the wedding at Cana to do whatever Jesus told them. She was all about doing God’s will and teaching others to do the same. May she who was always faithful to God’s plan, help us to do the same, so that when the day comes for us to meet our Lord and be judged, He will embrace us and welcome us into His – and our – heavenly home.