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Sebastian GomesJuly 03, 2024
Photo from Unsplash.

A Reflection for Wednesday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time

You can find today’s readings here.

Jesus summoned his Twelve disciples and gave them authority… (Mt 10:1)

It’s no secret that Jesus’ closest male collaborators were a bunch of ragtag individuals. The gospel writers don’t try to hide the limitations and at times incompetence of “the twelve.” Today we read the list of these ordinary, uninspiring personalities on which Jesus decided to build his church. “The Word of the Lord… Thanks be to God.”

We meet Simon, called “Peter,” which is the Greek word for rock or, as a nickname, “Rocky.” How appropriate for someone who was strong, confident and dependable in one moment, and completely unsure and unstable in the next; a walking contradiction.

Then there’s Matthew, the tax collector, whose very presence in Jesus’ entourage invited public scorn. And probably with good reason since tax collectors were often corrupt and self-serving. They certainly didn’t have the best interests of the taxpayer or the common good at heart.

Let’s not forget about Judas, the betrayer. Neither his personal friendship with Jesus, nor the many positively life-changing encounters he witnessed firsthand were enough to overcome his deep cynicism and hopelessness.

None of this is new information to readers of the New Testament today. We often hear preachers and commentators point out the foibles and sins of the Apostles during Jesus’ public ministry and passion because it makes them relatable. It gives us a sense of comfort, knowing that being welcomed and valued by Jesus isn’t dependent on moral perfection. We experience a kind of compassionate camaraderie, a general satisfaction and consolation, that because they weren’t perfect we need not be perfect.

There is great grace in recognizing our shared humanity with the Apostles. But the challenge of the gospels is for the reader to relate not to Peter or Matthew or Judas, as much as to Jesus. Our focus on their weaknesses can unwittingly serve to protect our egos from a path of deeper conversion. We can become stagnant, believing that our common human experience of imperfection and sin is an inevitable, unchangeable reality. Ultimately, we run the risk of losing faith in God’s mercy and forgiveness, which is, ironically enough, a universal constant.

In his preface to James Martin, S.J.’s new book on Lazarus, Pope Francis wrote that, “Jesus isn’t afraid of our death or our sin. He waits just outside the closed door of our hearts, that door that only opens from within, that we lock with a double bolt whenever we think God could never forgive us.”

There’s no escaping the fact that we’re all sinners, like the Apostles: liars, cheaters, betrayers. There’s meaningful consolation in that solidarity. The real challenge of discipleship is not avoiding sin, but never tiring of opening the door of our own hearts.

More: Scripture

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