Friday of week 2 of Ordinary Time – Gospel


Commentary on Mark 3:13-19

Jesus goes up a mountain. It has no name because it is the symbolism that is more important than the location. Mountains in the Scriptures are holy places associated with the presence of God. Jesus goes up mountains at more solemn moments in his public life: here, during the Sermon on the Mount, at the Transfiguration, and after feeding the 5,000…

Jesus’ purpose on this occasion is to pick the inner circle of his followers. “They were those whom he wanted.” Later he will say: “I have chosen you; you have not chosen me.” And “they came to him”. A call includes both the invitation and the response. The same is true for each one of us. The call is always there; can we say the same about our response?

There were twelve in this inner circle of disciples. In the New Covenant they would be the “patriarchs”, the foundational pillars of the new community, embracing the new Israel.

They are called “apostles”. A word to be clearly distinguished from “disciples”. The ‘disciple’, which comes from a Latin word meaning ‘to learn’, is essentially a follower who imbibes the teaching of the teacher and tries to make it part of his life. The ‘apostle’, however, from a Greek word meaning ‘to go out on a mission’ (like an ambassador), is essentially one who has a mandate from the teacher to pass on to others.

In the Pauline letters, where the term appears most often in the Christian Testament, it means primarily one who has been a witness of the Risen Lord and has been commissioned to proclaim the resurrection. Paul himself, because of his experience at Damascus, is regarded as an Apostle.

These Twelve were to be Jesus’ companions. They were to preach, that is, proclaim his message of the Kingdom and work with him to make it a reality. They were to cast out demons, to liberate people from all situations which enslaved people to any form of evil.

The list is headed – as are all lists of the Apostles – by Simon Peter. For Mark, the name Peter was given on this occasion. In Matthew it is given later, following his confession of Jesus’ identity. Strangely, the list includes included one man who would betray (‘hand over’) his Master and Lord. And today there are still those, called by Jesus, who betray him. What about me? “Is it I, Lord?” “There go I but for the grace of God.”

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