On May 1, we will celebrate Brothers. I’d like to take this time to celebrate the ministry of the Biblical Apostolate as a Brother. What does it mean to be a brother? I believe it entails being in a relationship as an equal, and with the person or people. I find it most rewarding to break open the Scriptures with the people I serve and make the Scriptures relevant and meaningful in their lives. This is done by “gathering the wisdom” of the group present. All of us have insights into the Scriptures and need to express them in the community, so as to get a fuller understanding of the Scriptures.
Many are surprised by the perspective I see and bring to the Scriptures—Jesus as a Brother. In so many ways he works with the people as an equal. The first miracle is the wedding feast in Cana. Most will say Jesus turned the water into wine. However, when reading John’s Gospel, we see and hear how he called the attendants to (Jn 2:7) “fill the water jars with water.” They do so, they work with Jesus and you get the best wine! In so many miracles, Jesus calls the people to be part of the miraculous event. At the feeding of the multitudes, he tells the Apostles (Mk 6:38) “to bring what you have.” They reply, “we have this boy with some fish and bread…” we know the rest. All get plenty to eat and there are leftovers!
Again, curing the paralytic, Jesus sees the faith of the people who open the roof and bring the invalid down on a stretcher. (Mk 2:5) (Lk 5:20) “Seeing their faith he tells the man to pick up your mat and walk.” Yes, even if your friend is dead for four days, (like Lazarus) Jesus will call you (Jn 11: 39), “to roll back the stone” and yes (Jn 11: 44) “remove the burial cloths!” After his resurrection, we find Jesus cooking fish, yet he invites the Apostles to (Jn 21: 10) “Bring some of the fish you’ve just caught.” Jesus as a Brother invites all to participate and calls all to work together and, yes, make the reign of God a reality.
Whenever Jesus tells a story, a parable, he uses examples the people can relate to or relate with. Not once does he say the reign of God is like a carpenter who builds… No, he tells stories that women can relate to: baking bread, cleaning a house, finding a lost coin, and stories that farmers, shepherds can relate to from their lived experiences, Jesus always speaks with the people, where they are at and at their level and understanding, and we all get a glimpse of the reign of God.
For Sunday’s Gospel, I like to do age-appropriate activity lessons with the children. Such as coloring a picture about the Gospel story, for the very little ones. For teenagers, reenacting the story and have them tell us what happened from their vantage point. This way, they can get a better understanding, reflection, appreciation of the Gospel. Too, often they are bored stiff, restless listening to a sermon that is geared for adults. This year at the St. Patrick’s school Mass, we saw how the children with hand puppets, reenacted the Sermon on the Mount. An experience they were proud to be a part of and grew in understanding of the Beatitudes. This year, with the help of some ladies, we read and created a daily reflection of the Scriptures for the 2024 Word of God Bible Diary. Again, it is rewarding to experience women becoming empowered and giving their reflections, their view on how to employ the Scriptures today!
So as a Divine Word Missionary, I am proud as a Brother to be a Missionary of the Divine Word.
Bro. Bernie Spitzley, SVD, is from Westphalia, Michigan. He professed first vows as a Divine Word Missionary in 1975 and worked for many years in formation at Divine Word College and in brother formation at Wendelin House in Washington, DC. In August 1999, Bro. Bernie began is ministry in Jamaica.