Read­ing Time: 2 minutes


The mis­sion of Jesus was uni­ver­sal. It could only be car­ried out through the min­istry of col­lab­or­at­ors who were empowered by a shar­ing in his own Spir­it. The com­mis­sion­ing of the Twelve Apostles was a moment of immense con­sequence, there­fore, in the earthly min­istry of Jesus. It is import­ant that we recog­nize that this com­mis­sion involved not only the Apostles and their ‘suc­cessors’, the bish­ops of the Church, but also by every bap­tized mem­ber of the Church. Mat­thew opens up a broad vis­ion in his intro­duc­tion to the ‘sum­mon­ing’ of the Twelve by Jesus. We are reminded of strug­gling human­ity of all times and places, as Jesus shows con­cern for ‘the crowds, har­assed and dejec­ted, like sheep without a shep­herd’; he speaks to his dis­ciples of the bound­less ‘har­vest’ envis­aged in the gen­er­ous plan of God.

The word ‘apostle’ (used only here in Matthew’s gos­pel) refers to one sent out with a spe­cial com­mis­sion. Mat­thew refers to the Twelve as ‘dis­ciples’, pri­or to their com­mis­sion – the com­mis­sion they are to receive pre­sup­poses and builds upon the rela­tion­ship with Jesus they have shared with the men and women who – as his ‘dis­ciples’ – have formed the new fam­ily of Jesus. Vat­ic­an II makes ref­er­ence to this solid­ar­ity as para­mount when it describes the role of the Apostles: ‘the Apostles were the first shoots of the New Israel, and at the same time the begin­ning of the sac­red hier­archy’ (Decree on Mis­sion, n.5). For Jesus, the choice of twelve sym­bol­ized the com­ing into exist­ence of a New Israel. This com­mis­sion, there­fore, con­cerns not only the hier­archy but all the bap­tized. The ‘suc­cessors’ of the Apostles must make it their first con­cern, to foster, identi­fy with, and give wit­ness to, the authen­t­ic faith and life in the bap­tized com­munity entrus­ted to their care. For their part, the whole com­munity of the Lord’s dis­ciples must recog­nize that they are all called to share in the com­mis­sion giv­en to the renewed people of God. In oth­er words, the whole Church should be apostol­ic and mis­sion­ary. For a long time, the mis­sion­ary out­reach of the Church has been asso­ci­ated in the Cath­ol­ic mind with the for­eign mis­sions – an apostol­ic expres­sion that has had a priv­ileged place in the Church’s life from the begin­ning. As they hear today’s gos­pel, com­mit­ted Cath­ol­ic com­munit­ies should ask them­selves wheth­er they are truly apostol­ic and mis­sion­ary. Not infre­quently, those who have joined our par­ish com­munit­ies, through a well organ­ized R.C.I.A. pro­gram, report that they are dis­cour­aged by the rou­tin­ised apathy that seems to char­ac­ter­ize so much par­ish life. Today’s gos­pel indic­ates two gauges we can use to eval­u­ate the apostol­ic spir­it of our par­ish com­munity, if we want to respond to this wake-up call. Those in need – phys­ic­ally and spir­itu­ally – had a priv­ileged place in the con­cerns of Jesus. Do we share this con­cern by a genu­ine and prac­tic­al out­reach to these people? Time and time again, con­cern for the mar­gin­al­ized, after the example of Jesus, has brought new life to Chris­ti­an com­munit­ies. Our second gauge is the wit­ness of a cour­ageous and gen­er­ous iden­ti­fic­a­tion with all that Jesus stands for, in the vis­ion of a renewed faith. The Chris­ti­ans of the early cen­tur­ies were for­bid­den to dis­close the essen­tials of their faith to out­siders; but they con­ver­ted the world of their time, by the qual­ity of their lives.

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