For you, who am I? - Postscript

Marc hoped that I could adapt the language of this section of his letter, written within a community of men, all of whom aspire to be 'brother', for more 'inclusive' use, addressed, as it is here, not just to little brothers of Jesus but also to women and other men. In some places Marc's language was already inclusive; in a few others, I did adapt the language: we all may ask ourselves Jesus' question: "For you, who am I?" and all face the challenge of recognising in each man or woman, girl or boy we meet, a brother or sister, children, like ourselves, of the One Creator. Even so, I decided to let most of this extract from Marc's letter remain as written - for the sake of the gospel. Elsewhere in his letter, Marc points out that Jesus is 'brother' because he is first 'son', son of Abba, his Father in heaven. Marc roots our need for prayer in that fact:
"If it is so important for me to be a brother, that means that, at the same time as the strong relationships with the men and women on my path, I cultivate and maintain a strong relationship with our Father, a strong relationship with Jesus, our older brother."
No less though, I'd like to add, as the Christian creed proclaims, Jesus is son of his human mother, the Virgin, Mary of Nazareth - and son too, as he himself acknowledged, of the women he met who 'do the will of God':
"Here are my mother and my brothers; whoever does the will of my Father who is in heaven, that person is my brother, my sister, my mother" (Matthew 12:49ff).
If you look at the gospels you will see that Jesus was quite clear - a hard saying! -
"Do not call anyone on earth 'father', for you have only one, the heavenly Father" (Matthew 23:8ff)
And equally clear in his promise:
"In truth I tell you, there is no-one who has left house, brothers, sisters, mother, father, children or land for my sake and for the sake of the gospel who will not receive a hundred times as much, houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and land - and persecutions too - now in this present time and, in the world to come, eternal life." (Mark 10:28ff)
A hundred 'mothers' but no mention of 'fathers'? Jesus promises brothers, sisters, mothers and children a hundred times as much as before but Father is only one: Jesus' - and our - heavenly Abba. So, rather than opt for an easy inclusiveness with the linguistically tricky and rather unpoetic option of adding 'sister' beside each of Marc's 'brother's, I would like to fulfil Marc's request to make this extract inclusive by asking:
  • How may the women among us, our sisters, do the will of Jesus' Father in heaven in such a way as to become for us Jesus' promised sisters and mothers?
  • How may the men among us, our brothers, do the will of Jesus' Father in heaven, becoming sons, like Jesus, of Abba and of the human mothers Jesus promises, and so become for us Jesus' promised brothers?

Nazareth

Such a woman and man indeed prepared the way for Jesus' birth: they made it possible. There was Mary's generous, dangerous 'fiat' to the angel's message. The anger of her own and Joseph's families could have led her to rejection, even death. Mary was willing, even so, to accept this surprising, Spirit-shadowed motherhood. Joseph, a 'just man', believed the message of his dream that Mary's child was of God and generously accepted the loss of his own possibility of fatherhood. He willingly accepted the responsibilities of his espousal, letting go of its rights and privileges, with the possibility perhaps of public ridicule for his decision. What could be more ordinary than a young couple expecting the birth of their first child? Yet the costly obedience to God of both 'woman, overshadowed by the Holy Spirit and become mother' and 'man accepting and supporting her motherhood - and God's fatherhood rather than his own', form the human bedrock of Jesus' life at Nazareth and continued to do so. Is 'Nazareth' to be any different today?

Jesus' gift

Such women and men are also Jesus' dying gift and wish, the completion of his mission:
"Seeing his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing near her, Jesus said to his mother,
"Woman, this is your son."
Then to the disciple he said,
"This is your mother."
And from that hour the disciple took her into his home. After this, Jesus knew that everything had now been completed..." (John 19:25ff)
  • Did the evangelist record this conversation only for those two beloved people at the foot of Jesus' cross or for 'woman' and 'beloved disciples' in any age?