As he gazed into the heavens, centering himself in the love of God, he heard footsteps. Turning his head, he saw James approaching. Love warmed his heart for this older brother of John, this man of tempestuous nature, yet possessing a great capacity for compassion and sympathy. "One of Father's unique achievements," he chuckled inwardly. Aloud he said, "James, what brings you here?
"Master," said James, digging at the ground with a sandaled foot, "I need to ask you about Mary."
"What is it?" Jesus asked gently.
"Well,"... he paused, probing for just the right words. "People are talking. They are laughing behind your back, saying that you love Mary, and..." His voice trailed off and he shrugged in helplessness.
"But, James, I DO love her. Mary is a wonderful, gentle, beautiful woman. She radiates the love of Father, and it is a pleasure to be with her."
As he watched the shock on James' face, he smiled and continued, "But I love you, too. And Andrew. And Thaddeus. And Joanna. And John. Each of you. All of you.”
James continued to look a bit surprised, but he seemed less worried.
"James, you must remember, most men have no understanding of the heart of my Father that impels Him, to enjoy what He has created. He does not see that friendships and caring, such as the ones I have, are sordid or sinful or inappropriate.”
He smiled. "There is nothing inappropriate about my love for you or your brother. We are brothers. We are family. Most people can not understand that. We do not share a common blood line. But our holy spirits communicating and focused on serving my Father make us one."
He looked intensely into James’ eyes. "And there is nothing, absolutely nothing, inappropriate about my love for Mary. Mary is my sister, my friend, my child. If my mission was human in origin, that relationship might be different. But that is not the case. My mission is for, and to, all men, women, and children. Nothing must stand in the way of what the Father wants me to do.”
Jesus shifted a bit. Glanced at the sky for a moment.
"James, when ugly rumors and misstatements are made, who is the author of that ugliness? Certainly not my Father. And if not my Father, then whom?"
James answered quickly. "Satan, the father of lies."
"That's right, James. If he can discredit or manipulate or create dissension, he will. Remember the story of the sheep and the shepherd. How did I describe Satan to you?"
"You said he was a thief and a murderer and that he came to steal, kill and destroy."
"Right again, James. Now, think. Does that only mean in the physical realm? What if part of Satan's scheme is to steal peace, joy, respect, courage? To kill reputations, and feelings of self-worth? And what if he came to destroy – not simply the body -- but loving relationships among families and friends?
"People misunderstand because they want to misunderstand. They enjoy painting pictures of unrighteousness, because it mirrors the unrighteousness of their hearts and helps them deaden the pangs of conscience.”
Jesus nodded firmly at James. "So, yes, I love Mary. But I love my Father and my mission first."
James broke into a broad grin. "I feel better. I guess I've learned something in spite of myself."
It was a good self assessment, and Jesus smiled back, remembering again James' usual reticence at learning. Jesus was pleased to see James growing in his understanding through the growth of his own heart and spirit.
And, James nodded at Jesus, with a worshipful heart, and, after waving a joyful goodbye, was gone.
Jesus turned his gaze and heart heavenward, laughed, spread his hands outward in a gesture of openness and affection, and spoke.
"Oh, my Father...Thank you. Thank you for these Little Ones."