by Fr. Tommy Lane
Someone suggested that if Jesus had sent his
twelve disciples for psychological testing this might well be the reply
he would have received: Thank you for submitting the résumés of the
twelve men you have picked for managerial positions in your new
organization. All of them have taken our battery of tests. We have run
the results through our own computer. After having arranged personality
interviews for each of them with our psychologist and vocational
aptitude consultant, it is the opinion of our staff that most of your
nominees are lacking in background, education and vocational aptitude
for the enterprise. They have no team concept. Simon Peter is
emotionally unstable and given to fits of temper. Andrew has no
qualities for leadership. The two brothers James and John place personal
interest above company loyalty. Thomas shows a skeptical attitude that
would tend to undermine morale. Matthew has been blacklisted by the
Jerusalem Better Business Bureau. James the son of Alphaeus, and
Thaddeus, definitely have radical leanings, and registered a high score
on the manic-depressive scale. One of the candidates however, shows real
potential. He is a man of ability and resourcefulness, meets people
well, and has contacts in high places. He is highly motivated,
ambitious, and responsible. We recommend Judas Iscariot as your
controller and right-hand man.
That assessment of the Twelve Apostles gives hope
to us because if they could go on to accomplish great things for the
Lord then so also can we. We are each called by the Lord at baptism and
confirmation to be his witnesses. No one can say
they are not suitable. If Jesus could use the apostles with their obvious
weaknesses, he can also use you to advance his kingdom. God calls you to make a difference to the world,
God wants to use you in his plan for the salvation of the world. Paul, who had
been a persecutor of Christians and watched Stephen being stoned to death,
wrote in our second reading,
“I am the least of the apostles...I hardly
deserve the name apostle; but by God’s grace that is what I am, and the
grace he has given me will not be fruitless.”(1 Cor 15:9-10)
Will you allow God to use you in his plan for the
salvation of the world? Will you make a difference?
Jesus called his apostles and they weren’t who we
might consider to be likely candidates. Their weaknesses are so obvious as we
read Scripture. But Jesus knew their hearts and their potential and knew what
they could become and do for his kingdom. Jesus knows our potential and what we
can do for his kingdom. Let us answer his call.
Jesus chose Peter. Peter later denied Jesus in the courtyard of the
high priest (Matt 26:69-75). He wasn’t faithful. He lacked the courage to take a stand in
public. Also he was impetuous and would say and do things without thinking.
Jesus chose Andrew, Peter’s brother. In John 6:9, before the
multiplication of the loaves and fish Andrew said to Jesus, “There is a boy here
who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?”
Andrew would still have much to learn about Jesus.
Jesus called James and
John. They were in a boat mending nets with their father Zebedee. Immediately
they left everything and followed Jesus leaving their father in the boat. (Matt
we discover later they were following Jesus for the wrong reason, they were
looking for their own glory. In Ireland we have a way of saying that, they were
only in it for the beer. In Mark 10:35 they ask Jesus, “Teacher we want you to
do for us whatever we ask of you.” Jesus didn’t say he would, he just asked
them what they wanted. And then they made their big request, “Grant that in
your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left.” What
confidence they had. And there was the time (Luke 9:53) when the Samaritans did not welcome
the visitors Jesus sent ahead and James and John said, “Lord, do you want us to
call down fire from heaven to consume them?” It is no wonder that they were nicknamed
“Sons of Thunder.” (Mark 3:17)
Jesus called Bartholomew but we know no more about him.
He is mentioned as one of the Twelve but we are not told anything he said or
did. (Matt 10:3; Mark 3:18; Luke 6:14; Acts 1:13) Perhaps he was a
timid man of few words who struggled to overcome shyness.
Jesus called Matthew (Matt 9:9). Matthew had a past, he was a tax-collector before Jesus
called him. If he was like any of the other tax-collectors he would have
collected a lot more in taxes from people than he returned to Rome. We can
guess that Matthew would have had enemies, many of them.
Jesus called Thomas.
But he would only believe in the resurrection of Jesus if he could put his
fingers into the wounds the nails made and put his hand into Jesus’ side. (John
Thomas lacked faith. Where was Thomas on that first Easter Sunday evening? Why
wasn’t he with the other apostles?
called Simon the Zealot. (Luke 6:15) Zealots wanted to achieve Palestinian
independence from Roman occupation using military means. Simon did not know that violence
achieves nothing but only encourages more violence. He would have much to learn.
Jesus called Judas
Iscariot. He later plotted behind Jesus’ back. (Matt 26:14-15) He wanted to force Jesus to bring about his kingdom. He wanted the
kingdom on his terms instead of Jesus’ terms. He complained when Jesus’ feet
were anointed not because he wanted to give that money to the poor but so
that he could steal it for himself. (John 12:4-6)
Today Jesus calls us. Like Peter we lack faith. Like
Andrew we have much to learn. Like James and John we are selfish sometimes.
Like Matthew we have a past. Like Thomas we doubt sometimes. Seeing that the
apostles of limited competence did so much for the Church gives confidence to
us. If Jesus could use them he can certainly use us. With the intercession of
Jesus for us at the right hand of the Father and by our spending time in prayer
with the Lord we too can grow from strength to strength and accomplish great
things for God and his kingdom.
This homily was delivered when I was engaged in parish ministry in Ireland
before joining the faculty of
Mount St. Mary’s Seminary,
More Homilies for the Fifth Sunday
Ridding ourselves of sin like Isaiah, Paul and Peter to follow the Lord in Peace
It’s okay to have nothing and be unworthy - Jesus does the
People in the Bible
Answering their Vocations
Leave the Boat
and build up God’s kingdom
in the Bible - Answering God’s Call
Christ continues to minister to us through his
stories about vocation