Homily by Father Alex McAllister SDS
The Sundays of Ordinary Time lead us through the three years of Christ’s public ministry. We began last week with his identification as the Lamb of God by John the Baptist and this week we hear how he called the Apostles to follow him. Next week we will start to hear the most important segment of his teaching known as the Sermon on the Mount.
In the Gospel chosen for today we hear how Jesus begins by taking up residence in Capernaum then how he identifies himself as the Light to the Nations as foretold by the Prophet Isaiah. It goes on to show him choosing his first Apostles. Then the passage concludes by telling us how he went around the whole of Galilee teaching and healing.
The selection of the Apostles at first sight seems to be fairly random, with Jesus simply walking past and calling them, but this surely cannot have been the case. He first calls the two brothers Andrew and Simon Peter; but we know from John’s Gospel that Andrew had already been a follower of John the Baptist and that he had told his brother about Jesus and how John the Baptist had said that he was the Messiah.
So these two brothers at least knew something about Jesus before they were called, even if only his identity as the Messiah. It sounds like they were looking for the Messiah and were prepared to answer the call if it came. When Jesus passes by and says that he will make them fishers of men if they follow him, they simply leave their nets on the shore and go after him.
In the case of James and John, who were also bothers, it is thought by some scholars that John was also a disciple of John the Baptist. Just as Andrew did, it is accepted that John told his brother James about Jesus. If this is true it means that in both cases these two sets of brothers at least knew about Jesus beforehand and were also very aware that John the Baptist had proclaimed that Jesus was the Messiah.
What we see here then is that these two sets of brothers where in some way prepared for Christ’s appearance and so were ready to respond to his call when it came.
At this point in the Gospel of Matthew we are only given these four names as specifically called to be Christ’s disciples. We have to wait till Chapter Ten until we get a full list of the twelve whom Jesus chose from among the larger group of disciples to be his Apostles.
We should note the difference between these two designations of disciple and Apostle. A disciple is anyone who follows Jesus. This means that he or she is someone who listens to the teaching of Jesus and who tries to put it into practice. In the Gospels, the word disciple usually refers to those who followed Jesus around Palestine and who listened to his teaching and wanted to know more about his message.
At one point in the Gospel of Luke we hear of Jesus sending out seventy-two of his disciples to hand on the Gospel message to those living in the various villages. Once they have fulfilled their mission they return rejoicing saying that ‘even the demons submit to us in your name.’
The Apostles, however, are those whom Jesus has specially sent out as his representatives. The word Apostle literally means ‘one who is sent’ but perhaps it has more of the meaning of an ambassador rather than a messenger boy. An Apostle represents his master and can in certain circumstances stand in for him.
Today we regard the Bishops as the successors of the Apostles and we most definitely hold them in very high esteem and we regard them as Christ’s official representatives to us.
We are told that Jesus began his teaching with the message, ‘Repent for the kingdom of heaven is close at hand.’ This is very much along the same lines as the teaching of John the Baptist who preaches a very similar message of repentance.
It seems then that this is the precondition before anyone can truly accept Jesus’ message; they must repent. What we repent of is, of course, our sins. We come to the realisation that we can only live decent and proper and truly fulfilled lives if we follow God’s laws. We discover for ourselves that God makes these laws not for any arbitrary reason but because his laws are in our own best interests and that following them is the only way to achieve true happiness.
Once we have expressed sorrow for our sins we can then start living our lives in accordance with Christ’s Gospel of love. It is then that we begin to understand that following his teaching brings us great rewards. Although the things Christ tells us seem to be the opposite to the way the world sees things, we discover that they actually bring us more fulfilment that anything the world could offer.
The basis of Christ’s teaching is that the strongest bond in the world is the bond of love. He tells us too that the poor are especially loved by God. He also instructs us to love our enemies. He urges us to put great faith in the power of prayer. He reveals to us that it is the hidden things that are the most important of all, and he advises us to put our trust in the spiritual and not the material.
All these things are part of his Gospel as well as many other truths such as his teaching that status and worldly power are without merit in God’s eyes. He invites us to live our lives with truth and justice as our main priorities and he tells us to prefer doing good to others than striving to achieve our own aggrandisement.
When we start to live our lives in this way we find that we become more and more his true disciples and we want to share his insights with others. We do not pass on this teaching as if we were salesmen with a product to peddle or authoritarian types who want to impose these rules of life on those who are not naturally disposed to receive them.
No, the way of a true disciple of Christ is the way of gentleness and love. We get our message across by simply suggesting these ideas to those around us, we do not ever impose them on others. We demonstrate that these teachings are worthwhile through the example of our lives and not by means of long lectures.
We show great respect to our brothers and sisters in the human family and we speak to them words which demonstrate the values of the Gospel. We speak to them words of forgiveness, words of hope, words of charity, words of truth and love. Because we know that it is only by living the out values of the Gospel as well as we can that we will be able to give an authentic example of what it is to be a Christian.
This is what it means to be a disciple, this is what it means to be a true Apostle of the Gospel of Jesus.
St Joseph's Catholic Church
191 High Road
18.00 (Vigil with Hymns)
09.30 (Family Mass)
11.00 (Solemn Mass)
12.30 (With Hymns)
Weekdays: 07.30 & 10.00
Confessions: Saturday 10.30-11.00 & 19.00-19.30
St Joseph's Catholic Church
T: 020 8427 1955
Saturday: 18.00 (Vigil with Hymns)
Sunday: 08.15, 09.30 (Family Mass), 11.00 (Solemn Mass), 12.30, 18.00
Weekdays: 07.30, 10.00 - additional mass every first Friday at 19.00
Saturday: 11.00 & 19.00-19.30
First Friday: 18.00-18.45
EXPOSITION & BENEDICTION
First Friday: 18.00-18-45