Today’s scriptures parallel one another in presenting us with images of brothers in community. Genesis portrays the sons of Jacob who are blood brothers, though born of different mothers. In Matthew, Jesus is gathering a community of “brothers” as followers. Some of these are pairs of blood brothers, namely Peter and Andrew, James and John. The others in the group have been paired together as “brothers” to share with the blood brothers in Jesus’ itinerant ministry of exorcism and the healing of diseases. But this group of twelve also has a representative role. Their number and gender symbolize a reconstituted Israel, the nation of twelve tribes descended from the patriarch’s sons. They are being chosen and given authority to act as a focus for the gathering Jesus movement. In company with other “brothers”—and sisters too—they are being empowered to proclaim in word and deed that the kingdom of heaven has come near.
In his Spiritual Exercises, St Ignatius of Loyola asks us to imagine a charismatic leader whom we admire and whose life and mission have been an inspiration to us. Think for a moment of who this person might be for you. Whom do you admire? Who has inspired you?… You believe in this person’s values and priorities. You admire his/her integrity. You are convinced that the cause he/she represents is so true, so important, so worthy, that you are ready to offer your full support.
I came to live in this country in 1999 – fourteen years ago. When I first came here, I missed England so much. In the first few months in the Monastery, I would spend much of my time remembering my former life: filled with a mixture of homesickness and nostalgia. I think I lived most of my conscious life at a point somewhere half-way across the Atlantic!
Almighty and everlasting God, who kindled the flame of your Love in the heart of your holy martyr Bernard Mizeki: Grant to us, your humble servants, a like faith and power of love, that we who rejoice in his triumph may profit by his example; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
A funeral procession winds its way through the center of the village and passes through the city gates, heading for the place outside its bounds where the dead were laid to rest. Hired mourners, weeping and wailing on behalf of the friends and relatives of the dead man, are leading the way, along with musicians with flutes and cymbals sounding their mournful tunes. The mother of the dead man, already a widow, walks ahead of the open-faced coffin, her face worn and weary and her body bent with her double sadness. Then comes the body of the dead man, lying in a long basket carried upon a stretcher and followed by a large crowd from the town, silently shuffling forward.
If we look back two or three chapters in the Gospel of Mark, we can find readings similar to the themes in today’s Gospel lesson. Twice earlier in Mark’s Gospel Jesus had foretold his suffering. When Jesus told the disciples that, they didn’t seem to get the point of why he was telling them.
In my reflection and prayer on today’s gospel, one phrase jumped out at me and grabbed my attention. Jesus says, “I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.” For the Father himself loves you. This is startling in its simplicity but it is the core theme of John’s gospel; the love of the Father for all of us. This simple phrase from the 16th chapter of John: “…for the Father himself loves you, mirrors the sentiment of love from way earlier in the 3rd chapter: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”
“I give you a new commandment that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.”[i] Instead of telling us to be kind, respectful, compassionate or patient (which we are to be), Jesus tells us to love. In the New Testament Greek there are four words for love. One is about family, love between children and parents, between siblings. Another is the erotic, sexual, falling in love. Another is the love of close friends. Then there’s agape, different from the rest. It’s not based on a relationship or affinity.