Mary Salome maintained that you could never find good fish outside of Galilee, so she and her cousin prepared a nice lamb stew for her sons, John and James, and their friends when they visited Jericho. Everyone seemed to enjoy the meal; even Jesus took a big helping.
Mary Salome missed her boys, of course. Since they had begun working for Jesus two years earlier, they had returned to Capernaum only a few times. Initially she thought that the new job would never last, that John and James would return home and rejoin the family fishing business after a couple of months. But things had not turned out that way. Her sons were very fond of Jesus and were determined to help him create his kingdom of kindness and generosity. They had never been more committed to anything in their lives. Mary Salome was somewhat skeptical of the project, but she was not going to stand in their way.
After clearing away the dinner dishes, she walked up to Jesus, knelt before him and made her request. She asked that her sons be his first lieutenants when Jesus finally established his kingdom. Her sons were smart and well-organized and as caring as anyone she had ever known. They were perfect for the job.
Jesus’ heart went out to this wonderful woman who loved her sons so much. His eyes were a little misty as he gave her a big hug. He explained that he would not be making the appointments in the kingdom but assured her that James and John would have special parts to play. He let her know how much he treasured their company.
Scripture commentators say that it is likely that James and John, themselves, made the special request for seats of honor and that their mother had nothing to do with it. That is certainly the way that St. Mark tells the story. St. Matthew might well have put the request on their mother’s lips to save them the embarrassment.
Regardless of the historical accuracy, I am glad that St. Matthew included Mary Salome in the story. It is nice to remember the families of the disciples on occasion. We do not hear about them very often. Usually they are quietly hidden in the background. No doubt mothers, fathers and other family members played an important part in the lives of the disciples. They helped make the first followers of Jesus the faithful, courageous and generous people that they were. The families, too, played an important part in supporting the ministry of Jesus and the work of the early Church; they accepted extra burdens and made sacrifices back home so that their sons and daughters could travel far and wide spreading the good news.
Most of us belong to families that have loved, shaped and encouraged us over the years. And we have offered love and support in return. Although each life journey requires individual choice and initiative, vocations are rarely a solitary endeavor. We depend upon one another.
The story of Mary Salome’s bold request prompts us to remember her with gratitude and affection. She was a mother who was understandably proud of her sons, who had high hopes for them and loved them very much. We also remember with appreciation our own families who have helped us along the way, continue to support and encourage us now, and depend upon our love and assistance in return.
Author’s Note: I offer occasional reflections on lesser-known characters that appear in the Scripture readings at Mass. I follow the lead of St. Ignatius of Loyola in using my imagination to fill out some of the details of the story. Scripture provides no name for the mother of James and John nor any details of her life.