by Father Mike Stubbs
Sometimes, I will listen to a tune, and then I can’t get it out of my mind. The melody keeps running through my head. Something similar happens once in a while in the Scriptures. We see that in Sunday’s Gospel reading.
It is a recurring theme. Once again, Jesus accompanies an instruction to his disciples with the words: “for my sake and for the sake of the Gospel.” A month ago on Sept. 13, we heard those words in the Gospel reading from Mk 8:27-35: “Whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the Gospel will save it.”
Now, in the Gospel reading for this Sunday, Mk 10:17-30, we hear the words: “There is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and that of the Gospel who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age.”
Sunday’s reading clarifies what Jesus meant in the previous Gospel reading about losing one’s life. It can involve the sacrifice of what one holds most dear: family and property. It reflects the experience of many in the early Christian community. The government persecution of Christians did not always lead to the death penalty. Instead, it sometimes resulted in exile or confiscation of property — punishments considered nearly as severe, comparable to a life sentence for us. The Gospel reading warns the early Christians that this could be the price for following Jesus.
And what could the disciples hope to obtain in return? “Houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come.”
Jesus’ promise to his disciples echoes the experience of Job in the Old Testament. The patience of Job is tested to the extreme. He loses his property and his children in a series of tragic accidents. He is smitten with a painful disease. Despite all this, Job places his trust in God. He is rewarded by being given a new fortune and a new family. God does not restore to Job exactly what he had before, but gives him something just as good.
Jesus has something similar in mind for his disciples. He will supply them with new brothers and sisters to replace the ones they have lost because they have followed him. The family nature of the church will provide them with many surrogate brothers and sisters.
To reflect this attitude, the members of the church will call each other brother and sister. St. Paul attests to that practice in his writings: “Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas and the brothers who are with them” (Rom 16:14). To a degree, we continue that practice when we address priests as “Father” and religious women as “Sister.”
In this age, the disciples can expect a new-found family in the life of the church. In the age to come, they can look forward to eternal life. That is also the promise that Jesus makes to us.