The Catholic Defender: The Question of Jesus "Brothers"
It was early 1985 while I was at Basic Training Fort Jackson, South Carolina, my Platoon was shown a movie of how the Russian Army trained.
It was to show us how our counterparts trained compared to our training. After the movie, we were invited by the Drill Sergeant to ask questions. I raised my hand and got permission to speak.
I said, "Drill Sergeant, I do not have a question, but more of a comment". I said, "It was interesting to watch how the Russians trained, but there is a major reason I preferred this uniform that I am wearing as opposed to the uniform that they wear."
"This uniform defends the right to freedom of religion, while our counterparts would think nothing of taking a club and beat up old men, women, and children for hiding in a barn praying to God."
With that people all around began to cheer. The Drill Sergeant was taken back as he was not expecting such a response.
After about 30-40 seconds of everyone busting lose with cheers and applause, the Drill Sergeant got his composure and gave that look and as fast as everyone erupted, it got very quiet very quickly.
There is a culture war taking place in our Country and if we do not stand up for our rights we will lose this liberty. Just look at what this present Administration has done to the Military. We see this primarily during the Obama Presidency and now Biden the past few months. This is scary because how bad things are with 3 1/2 years to go.
Pope Pius XII gave a stern warning concerning the attack on the Faith and the family in the last half of the 20th century and beyond. He said that for a Christian to be a true Christian you would have to be a living martyr.
The attacks on the family and our Faith will be that strong. We need to get back down on our knees and intercede for America. It is not too late. What is taking place today in Afghanistan should get us all praying for our country.
2 Chronicles 7:14 says, "and if my people, upon whom my name has been pronounced, humble themselves and pray, and seek my presence and turn from their evil ways, I will hear them from heaven and pardon their sins and revive their land".
When I was growing up, my mother sent me to a Catholic school in Blue Springs Missouri, St. John Le Lande, and I'll never forget the Nuns who use to teach us reading, writing, and arithmetic. I think these days a lot of schools are forgetting the basics. Most importantly, the nuns taught us our Religion.
St. Peter instructs us to "Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who defame your good conduct in Christ may themselves be put to shame" (1 Peter 3:15-16).
After I arrived at my first duty station at Fort Stewart Georgia (May 1985), I was assigned to a Medical Support Company where I was placed in the Ambulance Platoon. Soon, I became friends with a Soldier who was a mechanic that worked in the motor pool. He was quite curious about the Catholic faith and had a very interesting question for me He asked, "Did Jesus have brothers according to Catholic teaching and what is your opinion of the Bible and what it says?"
PFC Berny shared with me the Gospel of Mark, 6:3, He read to me the text, "and the brother of James, and Joses, and Judas, and Simon. And are not his sisters here with us?"
I looked at Berny who had a huge smile on his face because he thought he had me stumped. I had known this kind of question from being asked many times when I lived in Harrison Arkansas. There were a lot of Anti-Catholic sentiments there and this question is one reason why some Catholics had fallen from the faith. This was another domino that I had cracked a long time ago. So despite Berny's confidence I was ready for his question.
I found out that Berny was raised a Calvinist and really didn't know much about the Catholic faith other than some of the usual anti-Catholic rhetoric. Berny felt that the Catholic Church was going against the bible. He didn't know that the Catholic Church had the truth in all these questions and to this question, I was ready.
I began to respond on the breakdown that begins with the language barriers, the social differences as there were many changes. I responded, "In the days of Jesus, it was common for close relatives to be part of a family structure. First cousins were regarded as "brothers" and "sisters". I continued:
"The translation from Greek into English does not explain this. The word "brother" is used in English over 340 times in the Bible, and only some were literal brothers like James and John. Peter and Andrew were also brothers. However, in Greek, the original meaning could infer to cousins, friends, and countrymen."
It was a hot sunny day in the motor pool and I would have to get back with Berny later after our Company Formation ending our work day so I invited PFC Berny over for supper. It is good to invite single Soldiers to help get them out of the barracks.
I began the conversation where I left off to his original question, "take the case of Mark 6:3 and the "brothers of the Lord", James, John, Judas, and Simon. When compared to Mark 16:40, these brothers can be identified with the help of John 19:25 as the Son's of Mary the wife of Clopas, who is identified by John as the sister to the Mother of Jesus. Hence, "first cousin"!
I quickly shared this peace of evidence coming from John 19:26, Jesus states, "When Jesus saw his Mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his Mother, 'Woman, behold your Son. Then he said to the disciple, behold your Mother.' And from that hour the disciple took her into his home".
"There are two point I want to make:
1. If Jesus would have had brothers, according to Jewish Tradition, Mary would have stayed with the next eldest brother.
2. Traditionally, John is considered by the Church to be the youngest disciple and most capable for this job in view of the missionary activity the Apostle took.
St. John's role of 'Bishop' would not have been an advantage for Mary if she would have had other sons. Consequently, the followers of the Apostles such as St Ignatius of Antioch, St. Poly-carp, St. Ireneous of Lyons echoed Mary as "Mother of the Church".
It is well established from the writing of the Saints throughout the ages of the Church that Mary remained 'ever virgin". Some monk in the Middle Ages did not discover this teaching, but it has been handed down from the beginning.
PFC Berny by this point was interesting in other questions he had about the Catholic faith so I finished with this:
"I believe that current attempts to raise this issue of brothers of the Lord, are derived in closer observation, an attack on Mary. The teachings on Mary such as the Assumption, Coronation for example. None of the first Protestants rejected Mary or the teaching concerning him. Later when the bible became the sole rule of their faith, and this not explicitly defined, the outcome is obvious. The Catholic Church must be faithful to that Apostolic Tradition which helps keep God's revelation in His word unchanging.
The issues facing the Catholic Church in the United States today, from the Secularist and the Extreme Protestant, are very similar in an unholy alliance. St. Jude states, "I now feel a need to write to encourage you to contend for the Faith that was once for all handed down to the holy ones. Let us work towards understanding growing in knowledge, using wisdom to trust God in His faithfulness to His word. We need to cooperate with His will.
That following November, our unit spent a 30 day rotation out at Fort Irwin California (NTC) the National Training Center. I went on advance party while PFC Berny came out on the last group west. I was camped out when PFC first arrived and sought me out. He found me at the motor pool getting some work down on my track. That is when he reported to me that the reason he came on the last manifest was because he was received into the Catholic Faith by Father Norton at Fort Stewart!
It is important that Catholics train in the art of apologetics so that as a Church, we can improve our personal witness. What a great blessing this was and this field exercise was instrumental for me as I was carrying Our Eucharistic Lord throughout this rotation in the absence of a Catholic priest. God is so good!