If Jesus could use the Apostles with their obvious weaknesses he can certainly also use us

Homily for the Fifth Sunday of Year C

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 4:21) But 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 20:25) Thomas lacked faith. Where was Thomas on that first Easter Sunday evening? Why wasn’t he with the other apostles?

  • Jesus 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.

Copyright © Fr. Tommy Lane 2013

This homily was delivered when I was engaged in parish ministry in Ireland before joining the faculty of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Emmitsburg, Maryland.

More Homilies for the Fifth Sunday Year C

Ridding ourselves of sin like Isaiah, Paul and Peter to follow the Lord in Peace 2007
Related Homilies: It’s okay to have nothing and be unworthy - Jesus does the rest 2011

People in the Bible Answering their Vocations 2006

Leave the Boat and build up God’s kingdom

Vocations in the Bible - Answering God’s Call

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Christ continues to minister to us through his Priests 2012

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