In the Gospel reading this weekend, the Lord chooses the first four Apostles: two sets of brothers. We don’t hear much about the parents of the first pair — Andrew and Simon (later Peter, the first pope). The second set, James and John, were the “sons of Zebedee.” In the first chapter of Mark’s Gospel, we read:
He [Jesus] walked along a little farther
and saw James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John.
They too were in a boat mending their nets.
Then he called them.
So they left their father Zebedee in the boat
along with the hired men and followed him.
The passage doesn’t say what old Mr. Zebedee thought of this development. Very likely, not much … What father doesn’t dream of his sons working alongside him, continuing the family business? As he watched his sons walk away, following the itinerant Nazarene preacher — did he shout for them to honor their father, and return? Or was he a man of faith, who understood that they had responded to a higher call?
And what of their mother? In Matthew’s Gospel (chapter 20), we find a hint:
Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee approached Jesus with her sons and did him homage, wishing to ask him for something. He said to her, “What do you wish?”
She answered him, “Command that these two sons of mine sit,
one at your right and the other at your left, in your kingdom.”
Jesus said in reply, “You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the chalice that I am going to drink?”
They said to him, “We can.”
He replied, “My chalice you will indeed drink, but to sit at my right and at my left,
this is not mine to give but is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.”
If her sons were going to foll ow this Jesus, she would do her best to make sure they would distinguish themselves! And so they did … James was killed by the sword at Herod’s command (Acts 12:1). And John (thought by many Scripture scholars to be the one who is identified in the Gospels as “the one whom Jesus loved”) remained close to the Lord throughout his life, writing his Gospel account and other important works while exiled on the Island of Patmos, having first been boiled alive in oil.
And what of the mother? In Mark 16:1, Mary “the mother of James” is among those who prepares the body of the Lord for burial. As she washed and anointed those still, cold limbs… Did she think again of the request she made of Jesus, and wish she hadn’t spoken so hastily?
No matter how our children come to us, or what challenges and gifts they possess, we have dreams for them. It can be difficult to let those go, especially as time goes on and we discover that they are responding to a different call. We can encourage them, and offer them advice … and yet, parenting is about working ourselves out of a job. The best we can hope for is to give our children the skills they need to make good choices, and trust God for the rest.
After all, our children are entrusted to us for a time … but they belong to Him!
Photo credit: Cargage.org