Homily for July 6th, 2016:
From his disciples Jesus chooses twelve to be apostles. Why twelve? Because God’s people was composed of twelve tribes. Jesus was establishing a new people of God. The twelve men Jesus chose were already disciples: men who followed Jesus and learned from him. An apostle is more: someone who receives a commission or sending to speak and act for another. Indeed the word apostle means ‘one who is sent’ – like an ambassador, sent to abroad to represent his country, and more particularly the head of state who sends him.
If the disciples of Jesus whom he chose to become apostles had one thing in common, other than their love for the Lord, it was their very ordinariness. They were not learned or sophisticated. About most of them we know little, apart from legends. Nor is there complete agreement even about their names. The gospel lists differ in several cases.
This tells us something important. God does not call people who are fit, according to human reckoning. Instead he often calls people who are, humanly speaking, unfit. Through his call, however, and through what they experience when they respond to God’s call, he makes them fit.
Was Peter fit to be the leader of God’s Church – the man who was quick to profess loyalty even though when all others might fall away, and yet, when the time of testing came, three times denied that he even knew the Lord? That humiliating failure, and no doubt others besides (including Peter’s inability, according to the gospel record, to catch even a single fish without Jesus’ help) taught Peter that to do anything of consequence he needed Jesus’ help.
In baptism and confirmation Jesus sends each one of us to be his apostles, his messengers. How do we do that? You probably know St. Francis of
answer to this question. “Preach always,” Francis said. “When necessary, use
words.” How wise that is. Personal example is always more powerful than words.
“What you are,” someone said, “speaks so loud that I cannot hear what you say.”
How better could we respond to Jesus’ call of the Twelve than with the classic prayer of St. Ignatius Loyola: “Take, O Lord, and receive, my entire life: my liberty, my understanding, my memory, my will. All that I am and have you have given me. I give back to you all, to be disposed of according to your good pleasure. Give me only the comfort of your presence, and the joy of your love. With these I shall be more than rich, and shall desire nothing more.”