This story of Jacob and his entourage being overtaken by Laban, and the ensuing drama, is actually quite exciting. I'm not exactly sure what the purpose of Rachel stealing her father's idols was, but it certainly makes for a tense (or should I say 'tents') moment. Rachel proves again to be very clever in hiding her thievery from her father. Perhaps she was taking them to try and deliver her father from idolatry, or perhaps there is a different meaning hidden here in the symbolism of these "household gods."
In any case, both Jacob and Laban make good points in listing their grievances and responding to one another. It is no surprise that Jacob's case is stronger, though. We almost expect this meeting to end in bloodshed, but somehow the two come to an accord of peace. In some way this involves making a heap of stones which serves as a witness...I suppose this is like making a monument to remind them of their agreement.
It is clear that, despite Laban's less than savory dealings with Jacob, he does love his daughters and wants what is best for them.
And now we're back to blessings on the righteous and fire and brimstone on the unrighteous. This one is particularly well put...it will be difficult to resist the temptation to wish some of these things on those who have wronged me...I pray that the knowledge that I could easily be put into this category of unrighteous at times will keep me humble enough not to wish things on others.
And yet, there is something satisfying in thinking of these things befalling evil itself...death itself...as Christ's victory over the grave certainly swallows up death and sin, aiming His bow at the face of evil.
Be exalted, O Lord, in thy strength! We will sing and praise thy power!
Finishing up chapter 12, we get Jesus foretelling his resurrection and calling it the sign of the prophet Jonah, and explaining that "something" greater than Jonah, and greater than Solomon, is here.
We end this chapter with a few verses which folks often try to say amounts to Jesus disrespecting his mother. These same folks often also try to use this passage to "prove" that Jesus had siblings by Mary, and therefore refute her perpetual virginity.
However, it does not say that Jesus refused to see his mother, or his "brethren," but certainly does show that he uses their appearance as a teachable moment, to show that the bonds of our faith are more important than the bonds of family...something he has already mentioned a few times in different ways. It is possible that after making his point he received them. I would argue that this makes sense, since it would certainly be remarkable if He had sent them away without seeing them, but not particularly remarkable if He did see them. So it would make more sense to include it in the writings if He had sent them away than it would to include it in the writings if He did not.
As to the "brethren" or "brothers" of Jesus, I would refer readers to this well laid out article: http://www.catholic.com/library/Brethren_of_the_Lord.asp
A lot of St. Irenaeus in this passage regarding the fact that there is only one faith in Christ Jesus. We Catholics get a lot of flak for saying that there is no salvation outside the Church...but in saying this we are acknowledging that no one says "Christ is Lord" without the Holy Spirit, and that the Church is not confined to her perceptible boundaries. There is only one baptism, after all, and we practice what we preach in this regard. That is, when a non-Catholic Christian asks to enter the Catholic Church, his or her baptism is considered valid if the proper form, matter, and intention were present when the baptism was performed.
It is the same Christ which saves us, even those outside the perceptible boundaries of the Church. Certainly, we believe that the Catholic Church holds the fullness of the Christian faith, but we do not claim a monopoly on all truth. In so much as some of the truths we hold are shared with those of other Christian faiths, we consider them brethren in Christ. Separated brethren, perhaps, but brethren nonetheless.