daily biblical sermons


The task of the twelve apostles is to preach Christ and his saving death to people of every culture and religion
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, Th.D.
Homily of Friday, Second Week of the Year, January 24, 2020
1 Samuel 24:3-21, Psalm 56, Mark 3:13-19


Biblical quotations are taken from the Revised Standard Version unless otherwise noted

 

 

 

“And he [Jesus] went up into the hills, and called to him those whom he desired; and they came to him. And he appointed twelve, to be with him, and to be sent out to preach and have authority to cast out demons” (Mark 3:13-14).

 

 

This is a very important phase of Jesus public ministry, the choosing of his twelve apostles who would continue his mission in the world after him. They needed to be carefully chosen. They did not choose themselves or volunteer; rather Jesus chose them. They left everything of their past: their life, their parents, their home, and their livelihood to begin a new life following Jesus. They were to do three things: “1) be with him [Jesus], and 2) be sent out to preach and 3) have authority to cast out demons” (Mark 3:14-15).

 

 

First of all they had to be with Jesus, that is, live with him so that he could personally train and monitor them. They would see his manner of life, he would teach them how to pray, they would discuss spiritual matters with him, they would hear all his sermons and presumably discuss their meaning with him after he finished preaching, they would see all his miracles, which authenticated him as a man sent from God and verified the truth of his preaching, and finally they would see him risen from the dead, the ultimate proof of the truth of all that he had said. With all of this they would be fully qualified to begin their mission of preaching the gospel of God’s salvation now available in his only incarnate Son Jesus Christ, whom they had personally known in the flesh during his earthly ministry and had seen, touched, and eaten with after his resurrection.

 

 

But even before all of these things had been completed, Jesus sent them out in a preliminary way to preach the gospel, something that they would do in a far more complete way after his resurrection, after the central saving events of his life had taken place, namely his atoning death on the cross for the sins of the world and his triumphant resurrection. Jesus’ saving death and victorious resurrection would then be the main thing that they would preach about, namely that the sins of all that put their trusting faith in him and sincerely repent of their sins would have Christ’s atoning, reparation-making death on the cross credited to their personal account by God as paying their debt of suffering and death that they have with God for their sins. God would then declare and thereby make them righteous, not with their own righteousness, but by reckoning to them his own righteousness through their faith so that they would shine with the righteousness of God himself (Romans 4:5, 22-24). This in brief is the apostolic kerygma, that is, the basic outline of the preaching of the apostles.

 

 

The apostles would then bring this good news (the gospel) to people primarily by preaching in words that Jesus died for our sins and by preaching in words the necessity of faith in him and genuine repentance in order to benefit from his saving death.

 

 

Then Jesus gave his apostles authority to cast out evil spirits and miraculously heal the sick. This was very important in the first Christian generation to authenticate in the eyes of the people the truth of what they were preaching, for they preached extraordinary truths that reasonable people would need to see some evidence that they were telling the truth and that their teaching was from God, before they would believe. So the apostles were given authority to cast out demons with a simple word of command and to miraculously cure the blind, the lame, and lepers with a simple word. This should be all the proof that intelligent people of goodwill would need to conclude that these apostles were preaching the truth that came from God, and that they were sent by God to preach this truth to them for their salvation.

 

 

We see that after being with Jesus, the first thing that St. Mark mentions is preaching and then casting out evil spirits as a verification of the truth of what they preached. Preaching Christ and salvation in him through his saving death on the cross for our sins must always be the main way of evangelism. It is important to stress this today, for there are new false teachings being disseminated within the Catholic Church today, especially from South America, that we need to evangelize in a new way without ever mentioning Christ, the Scriptures, or faith in Christ, for that would disturb the indigenous native beliefs of non-Christian peoples and would harm their culture, which is their unified system of understanding the world and themselves.

 

 

So how do you evangelize without mentioning Christ or any of his teachings? Apparently these new false teachers think that evangelizing should be basically discussing with the people their daily problems and the problems of human life in terms of their own indigenous non-Christian beliefs, and then perhaps also discussing with them how we can work together about climate change and the protection of Mother Earth, our common home. But never, according to this new false teaching, should we mention Christ or try to convert anyone to Christianity or call them to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, for that would be an imperialistic imposition, introducing foreign beliefs that would disturb their culture and indigenous religious beliefs.

 

 

Just describing this new false teaching is already a refutation of it, because it sounds so ludicrous that anyone could possibly think that this is a valid understanding of Christian mission and evangelization. Nonetheless, this is what some Church leaders from South America are preaching today to the great harm of the Church.

 

 

The truth of what Christ sent his twelve apostles out to do is the exact opposite of this new false teaching. The risen Jesus said to his apostles, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things” (Luke 24:45-48). So basically what Jesus is saying is that the apostles and their successors are to preach his death and resurrection as the basis for our repenting and receiving the forgiveness of our sins. And they are to preach this “to all nations [ethn?, literally all peoples]” (Luke 24:47). “All peoples” means people of every tribe, culture, and religion, to the degree that they are willing to listen.

 

 

We, of course, do not force anyone to listen or believe. We simply preach the truth as the occasion permits if and when it is possible to do so. And we reject the false view that this is a terrible thing to do and that it is imperialistic and an imposition upon and a destruction of a people’s native culture and indigenous religious beliefs. We preach with respect for people and their culture and traditions, but we do not mute the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ that we were sent to preach, which will greatly benefit all who accept it with faith and repentance for their sins.

 

 

Those that accept the gospel with faith and genuine repentance will form the nucleus of the new Israel, the new twelve tribes of the new people of God, the Church. Jesus, it seems, chose the number twelve as symbolic of the new twelve tribes of the new Israel, which he was founding.

 

 

Once the apostolic age had ended, the number twelve was not passed down; that is, there would no longer be twelve living apostles, once the original twelve died. This is because one of the main requirements for being one of the twelve apostles was knowing and experiencing Jesus in the flesh and witnessing him as risen from the dead, which no one could do after this first generation had passed.

 

 

But the powers and authority that Jesus gave to the apostles are passed down through episcopal, priestly, and deacon ordination, by which the bishops of the Church are the successors of the apostles, and they ordain priests and deacons to carry out among the people the ministry of preaching and celebrating the Eucharist and the other sacraments and Church ministries, especially helping the poor and those in need.

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