To be with Jesus

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The WORD in other words (2021) by Fr. John O’Mahony, SVD (Divine Word Seminary Tagaytay City)

Friday 2nd Week in Ordinary Time

Image: Gustave Dore, Jesus with the Disciples on the Road to Emmaus

It is not clear how many disciples Jesus summoned when he went up the mountain, but it is clear that he wanted them to be with him. It is from these disciples that Jesus appointed the twelve apostles.

Why twelve, we might ask? The answer to this is rooted in the Old Testament when God made the covenant at Mt. Sinai with the twelve tribes who were descended from the twelve sons of Jacob. This number always remained significant for Israel, even if there were not many traces left of the twelve tribes during the time of Jesus.

The choosing of twelve apostles was Jesus’ way of inaugurating a new covenant. This is the reason why Judas needed to be replaced by a new member of the apostolic college in the days leading up to Pentecost.

In laying down the institutional foundation of the New People of God, Jesus chose apostles who were to be more than just symbols. His chosen ones were also real flesh and blood people. They were called to “be with him” and to be “sent forth to preach.” They were to have a relationship of friendship with him so that their preaching would be a proclamation of God’s love for everyone.

By the standards of the scribes and Pharisees, they would be considered to be very unqualified people. But this was not important for Jesus. He chose these apostles because “he wanted them to be with him.” Or, as he later told them, “It was not you who chose me, it was I who chose you to go forth and bear fruit” (Jn 15:16). He was satisfied to call them just as they were. Any other qualifications would be given to them through the Holy Spirit as they were needed. 

So what does all this say to us in our different situations today? Obviously we are not called to be the foundations of the New Covenant as the twelve apostles were. That is unique to them. But we are called to be apostolic disciples. Because of our baptism, Jesus is choosing us because he wants us.

On one occasion, Pope Francis used the expression “baptized and sent” when he was speaking of the missionary calling. In other words, we are called “to be with Jesus.” We are to be his friends so that we can give witness to him in whatever life situation we find ourselves. Yes, Jesus wants us! How can we be too busy, too unqualified, or too unimportant for that? Let us follow Jesus; he knows best what he wants. 

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