“He called them to himself” Lk 6:13
The call of the Apostles is a simple, but important, moment in the gospel narrative. Jesus, after praying all night, calls 12 of his disciples and names them apostles, a term that means “sent.” From the very beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, therefore, there is a sense that the mission of Jesus is bigger than we might have first imagined. Twelve apostles, all of whom except John were married, will be sent into the world to proclaim the glory of God in Jesus and build the Kingdom. While they might begin with the 12 tribes of Israel, Luke will soon make it clear that their mission is to the entire world, not just to the Jewish community. Even after acknowledging the magnitude of this mission, there remains in me a nagging question. What happened to their wives?
I realize that my question is a modern one, and clearly not the first concern of the gospel writer, but it is important for us I think because marriage is so central of our self understanding as Catholic Christians. This past weekend I had the great privilege and pleasure to meet with a young couple preparing for marriage as well as witness the renewal of vows of a couple married fifty years. Both couples touched me.
The young couple’s love is so fresh, so active that I could not help but be delighted with their care for one another and their desire to prepare for marriage with integrity and joy. As we talked about their marriage ceremony it was clear to me that they wanted their wedding both to witness to their particular love and prepare them for a life together. Their wedding ceremony was not simply a hoop through which they had to jump, but a symbol of what they hoped to become. As we chatted, it became clear to me that the like the apostles, this couple has a mission.
The older couple’s joy was different, and best understood through the lives of their children and grandchildren. At mass, each of the grandchildren placed a stone or shell in a clear bowl indicating their uniqueness as people and their union as family. Diverse in personality but one in family was clearly the theme of the day. More important, as the party moved through the afternoon, the wealth of memories and commitment this marriage has produced were very impressive. It was clear to me from the peace that crept over the gathering of family and friends, that this couple had implanted powerful and lasting values in their children and grandchildren. Be yourself, the air seemed to say, but don’t forget that you are family, that you have a faith and that you have a mission: Proclaim the power of God through your love for one another. With St Paul this couple clearly taught their extended family: "So faith, hope, love remain, these three, but the greatest of these is love." 1 Cor. 13: 13