Becoming Jesus out in the world

Tom Bartolomeo
6th Sunday Ordinary A 2014
Sirach 15: 15-20, Psalm 119
1 Corinthians 2: 6-10, Matthew 5: 17-37
Reproduced with Permission

The journey of Jesus out in the world - for Jesus and his disciples was not staged but happened in actual time, in real places and real circumstances like our own for the benefit of all who would follow him. "Follow me". Nothing in this world has had more impact on lives than these two words, "follow me." Even the enemies of Christ would admit this. Why there are so many today intent on destroying Christianity. There were first four disciples whom Jesus had invited to follow him at Lake Galilee. Earlier two of them had already met Jesus when Andrew and John had asked him, "Where do you live", and Jesus answered, "Come and see". (John 1: 35 ff). Then Peter and James, Andrew's and John's brothers, joined Jesus at Cana in Galilee where they attended a wedding at which Jesus' mother was also a guest. Matthew, the tax collector in Capernaum, received the same invitation from Jesus, "follow me", and he joined the others on Jesus journey from Capernaum through Galilee, Israel and finally the world. (Matthew 9: 9). The others who followed - Philip and Bartholomew, who had also met Jesus in Cana and Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, Simon, Thaddeus and Judas Iscariot followed Jesus sometime during Jesus' journeys from Capernaum "to other villages" as Jesus had explained, "that I may preach there". Altogether twelve men followed Jesus. Four of his followers one of whom who did not know Jesus personally later wrote about Jesus and their travels in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. (cf. Mark 3: 13-19; Matthew 10: 1-4; Luke 6:12-16). At the start Jesus and his Apostles were in Capernaum when "on the Sabbath", Mark recorded in his gospel, Jesus "entered the synagogue and taught" and had driven out "an unclean spirit from a man in the synagogue who exclaimed for all to hear, "I know who you are, the Holy One of God". (Mark 1: 21 ff).

"That evening", Mark continued, "they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons", and "the whole city was gathered at the door [of Peter's home] and he healed many who were sick . . . ." (Mark 1: 21-25). After all who were cured that day had left Jesus early in the morning "went to a deserted place to pray." Simon and the others then searched for Jesus and when "they found him [Peter] said, 'Everyone was looking for you', and Jesus replied, 'Let us go to other villages that I may preach there also. That is why I have come' [into the world]". (Mark 1: 37-38).

In that ordinary time, place and circumstance Jesus began his journey to establish his gospel of hope and life which he would pass on to his followers some three years later moments before his ascension into heaven, saying, "Go, make disciples of all nations baptizing them in 1 the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit", adding, "I will be with you until the end of time". (Matthew 28: 30). They were 'sent to do his work' as Apostles, as Jesus had prepared them, and we today have the "good news" of their apostolate in the Acts of the Apostles. The full depth and breadth of the Apostles' novitiate would be tested over that period of time, their reluctance to fully accept becoming Jesus, their worldly attitudes and personal moral crises each of them would bear no different than the worldly attitudes and personal moral crises we face, chiefly our personal preparations for death and everlasting life. We can not have one without the other, Jesus taught, no matter how selfassured we may think we are. Mark admitted early in his gospel that Jesus' Apostles' hearts were "hardened" - that they refused to accept what Jesus told them that "the son of man must suffer and die" at the hands of his enemies because like most of us, the Apostles in the beginning did not want to face the prospects of a possible agonizing death in the world, Jesus' or their own. (cf. Mark 8: 31 ff).

Easy enough for us, too, to simply follow Jesus, unnoticed minding our own business while evil flourishes all around us. We wouldn't want to be 'militant' as Jesus was but compliant travelers in this world. Have we forgotten the prophetic announcement of Jesus' coming by Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist whose son would die a witness to the Christ: that the "Blessed of the Lord . . . [Zechariah proclaimed would] come to his people and set them free. . . raised up for us a mighty Savior . . . ." (Luke 1: 68-69) [Italics mine].

Jesus' teaching alone would not convince the Apostles. They had to see with their own eyes and hear with their own ears the 'good works' of Jesus as we do to be convinced that Jesus is among us. Who among us are Jesus? Who among us are our saints to follow? If all else fails we can become Jesus for others to follow. Parents who truly love their children as God does and raise saints in their homes - whose children in turn become models of sanctity for their parents which is exactly what Jesus did. Like father like son, like son like father. Like mother like daughter, like daughter like mother.

Jesus planned from the beginning to bend the minds and hearts of his Apostles by the good works his teaching and good works together. Jesus' good works supported his teaching as his wisdom supported his good works. This was the irrefutable argument Jesus made to his proud 'professional' adversaries, the rulers of Israel who had a vested interest in keeping things as they were:

the Jews gathered around him and said to him, 'How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.' Jesus answered them, 'I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father's name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not part of my flock. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me . . . . (John 10: 24-27). If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.' Again they sought to arrest him, but he escaped from their hands. (John 10: 24-39).

Bewildering! Is there any greater certainty we need? If there is any other proof beyond human intelligence and experience we require unless there is something else at work in the minds and hearts of others which is evident in the discontent and desperation so many carry around with them? Evil persists in the world alongside the good. If we are truly honest we would recognize it in our own lives, too. Even those who oppose Christianity in public do so with some pretense for what they say and do is "good" who often exhibit deep seated personal disorder in their lives. What we can take away from Jesus' "good works" in the world -- were his many exorcisms casting out demons from so many people by today's standards. It will take 'mighty warriors' becoming Jesus today to do the same.