GOSPEL, FIRST READING & PSALM TRANSCRIPT (Subscribe or Login for Full Transcript):
Several things are worth noting here about this passage. The first one is that the mission discourse of Jesus is prompted by his seeing the crowds helpless and harassed “like sheep without a shepherd.” This is a very important passage because it's an illusion to imagery that you'll find in several of the prophets in the Old Testament. Ezekiel is one that comes to mind that describes the people of Israel like a flock of sheep who are supposed to be being led by their shepherds, but who are in fact being abused by their shepherds or fleeced by their shepherds in the sense that their money's being taken from them, their stuff is being stolen from them, and they are not being led to God precisely by the people who are supposed to lead them to God in the Old Testament, namely, the priests in the temple.
So it's interesting that Jesus here sees the people in need of leadership and of course he himself will say elsewhere, he'll speak of himself as a shepherd. Like later in the gospel he'll say, "Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered," in the garden of Gethsemane. In the Gospel of John, he'll say, "I am the good shepherd." But in this case, Jesus appoints the Twelve in response to this need for leadership amongst the people of Israel that he sees and compares to a flock of sheep in need of a shepherd. So that's the first thing to highlight here, is that the apostolic ministry and the apostolic mission flows from Jesus's recognition that the people are going to need leadership. So to this day, at the risk of getting ahead of myself, I'll just point this out, that the bishops in the Catholic Church who are the successors of the Apostles will often have the bishop's crook, the bishop's staff, which is symbolic of their identity as a shepherd. And it doesn't mean that Jesus isn't the shepherd. You can't ask the question, who's the shepherd of the Church? Is it the bishops or is it Christ? Well, the answer is both, right? They are shepherds who are sent by the one shepherd, the supreme shepherd who is of course Christ himself. So that's the first imagery point there.
A second image is this image of the harvest being plentiful, but the laborers being few. So here the image shifts. Now it's not a flock of sheep in need of shepherds. It's a harvest in need of laborers, in need of harvesters, in need of reapers to go out and harvest the fruits of the field, harvest the grain of the wheat. And so in that context, the need for the harvest to take place, Jesus calls the Twelve to him and he sets them apart from his other followers and gives them authority. The Greek word here is exousia
, and it can also be translated as power. It's the same word that is used to describe Jesus' teaching earlier in the Gospel of Matthew at the end of the Sermon on the Mount, when the people say, "He taught as one having authority." Or he taught with power, there was a power in his words, an authority in his words. Well, the very authority that Jesus himself possesses when he speaks the Sermon on the Mount, he then gives to Matthew and Thomas and Andrew and James and John and Judas, the Twelve, who are chosen to be his emissaries, chosen to act as shepherds on behalf of him as the messianic shepherd of God in leading the people into the kingdom of God. So the Twelve Apostles are not just Jesus's closest friends, they're not just the followers that were particularly intimate with him and close to him amongst the multitudes. No, no, no. He gives them exousia
. They have a share in his own authority and it's through that exousia
, through that authority that they are able not just to proclaim the kingdom of God, but to shepherd people into it, to go out and harvest, so to speak, to participate in the harvest of souls that Jesus is calling for with the coming of the kingdom.
So this is the first co-missioning of the Twelve, and we could go into all kinds of interesting studies of each of these figures of the Twelve Apostles. For our purposes here, I would just want to highlight something about the list that's peculiar to the list of the Apostles in the New Testament. Every time you'll get a list of the Apostles names in the gospels, there are a couple of variations between the names between gospels, because as we've seen elsewhere, Jews will often have more than one name, so that's not a big deal. But the point that's interesting is Simon Peter is always listed first and Judas Iscariot is always listed last. So there's a hierarchy within the list itself that points to Peter's role as the chief representative of the Twelve and effectively the leader of the Twelve Apostles. And of course, it points to Judas’ role, his ignominious role, as the traitor among the Twelve who will eventually be replaced by Mathias in the Book of Acts in order to reconfigure the number to fill the number of the Twelve, representing the twelve tribes of Israel, which is the next point I want to make. Why Twelve?
Well, if you know anything about the Old Testament that there are twelve sons of Jacob and twelve tribes of Israel in the Book of Exodus at the time of Moses. The number twelve is the constitutive number for the people of Israel. When you see the number twelve, think twelve tribes of Israel, think people of Israel. So when Jesus chooses the Twelve to be his twelve students and gives them authority, in a first century Jewish context, this is very important. It would imply that Jesus isn't just the long awaited Messiah or the long awaited king of Israel. It also implies that Jesus is constituting around himself a new Israel with new tribal leaders, new patriarchs whose exousia,
whose authority is not going to flow from their blood lineage with relationship to Jacob. You know, are you descended from one of the sons of Jacob? But rather, will flow from their relationship to Jesus who has now given them an exousia
that is independent of their genealogy.
In fact, sometimes I'll have students say, "Dr. Pitre, have you ever looked into whether each of the Twelve apostles is descended from one of the twelve tribes?" So there's like a bloodline descent, and I understand the inclination. It would be really cool if each Apostle was from one of the twelve tribes of Israel, but I actually think the fact that they're not, because I mean there are several pairs of brothers, or at least couple pairs of brothers, Peter and Andrew being the obvious example. There's no indication that they're descended from each of the twelve tribes. And that actually might be the point, to show that in the new Israel that Jesus is constituting around himself, what's going to matter is not the blood of Jacob but the blood of Christ, because it's going to be these same Twelve who later in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus gathers around himself and gives his blood under the appearance of wine and his body under the appearance of bread and will say to them, "You twelve will sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel."
So they are connected to the twelve tribes, but it's not genealogically like the Old Testament, it’s eschatologically through the new covenant. So again, something to think about, the Church isn't just an institution, it is the new people of Israel. It's the new constitution, so to speak, of Israel around Christ. And the Twelve are at the head of it. They're the font of it, they're the shape of it. Just like the twelve sons of Jacob were the constitutive body for the people of Israel.
SECOND READING TRANSCRIPT (Subscribe or Login for Full Transcript):
...this is a beautiful passage. Because in it, Paul is reflecting on the mystery of God's love, in Greek His agape, for humanity, even when we were in the state of sin. In other words, from all eternity, God knows everything that every human being is ever going to do. I don't know if you've thought about this in any depth, but remember, God is omniscient. He knows all things. So He sees in advance every sin you have ever committed and every sin you ever will commit. And He loves you anyway. And He sends His Son anyway. And Paul's reflecting on that mystery of God's divine foreknowledge combined with His love. Because for many of us, if we saw that someone was going to sin gravely against us, if we knew that a friend or a family member would betray us, it would be hard for us to love them and do good for them, knowing in advance they were going to hurt us or harm us.
So Paul goes on to illustrate this by saying, "Why one will hardly die for a righteous man, though perhaps for a good man, one will dare even die." In other words, just on a human level, most human beings might, might, be willing to lay down their life for another person, if that person's a good person. But if we know that person's a thief or a murderer or a criminal or some kind of abuser or something like that, we're not going to want to lay down our lives for them. But that's really what Christ does, according to Paul. He looks at the sea of humanity. He sees all the sin, all the filth, all the wickedness, and He loves every single one of us anyway, so much so that He lays down His life for us. He dares to die for us. And for Paul, this is this meditation on the divine foreknowledge of God is one of the most powerful revelations of just how deep that love is, for God shows His love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. All of our good works, good deeds, all of our faith, it's all in response to a love that precedes us literally by millennia all the way back into eternity. Because from all eternity, God sees and knows exactly what we're going to do and sends His Son to die for us anyway.
And for Paul, this brings great hope because he says, "Since therefore we're now justified by His blood." Remember, I talked about justification before, dikaiosune
, or dikaióō
is the verb. It means to declare righteous, to be made righteous, since we're made righteous by His blood. How much more will we be saved by Him from the wrath of God, for if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His son? How much more now that we're already reconciled, shall we be saved by His life? There's just no reason for fear. If you're in Christ, if you've been baptized, you've already been reconciled to God. Just remain in that reconciliation. There's no need to fear. Not only so, but we also rejoice through our Lord Jesus Christ through whom we've now received our reconciliation. So it shouldn't just lead us to trust, it should lead us to joy. The reconciled life is a life worth living, to adapt the phrase from Socrates, but it's also a life that should be joyful, and that's what Christ brings according to St. Paul in Romans 5. He brings the reconciled life. He enables us to live a reconciled life. In fact, elsewhere in the Pauline corpus, in 2 Corinthians 5, Paul will actually describe his entire ministry as a ministry of reconciliation.
Just to give you an example of this. 2 Corinthians 5:18-21, Paul says, "All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation." That's what Paul's all about, reconciling people to God. "That is, God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation." So we're ambassadors for Christ, God making His appeal through us, "We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God." There you see the transformative language of righteousness. For Paul, God just doesn't declare us to be righteous. He actually makes us righteous. He makes us holy, so that we might become the righteousness of God.
For me, this is very powerful because I think oftentimes when we talk about redemption, we talk about salvation, we'll use the language of salvation, for example. Like, "I'm saved from hell." "Saved for heaven." Beautiful, perfect. Or we'll talk about redemption, "I'm set free from sin so that I can freely choose the good, freely choose to love God." Awesome. That's a great way to describe salvation, what happens in salvation. But it's also important for us to remember that it's also a mystery of reconciliation, namely that our sin, human sin, puts us at enmity with God. It destroys our friendship with God. It damages our relationship with God so that there's a need for us to be reconciled with God. And if you've been alive, I mean, if you've made it through your teenage years, at least, you will have had the experience of a friendship or a relationship that you have a falling out, where there's a lack of reconciliation, some kind of break, there's some kind of rupture, there's a betrayal, there's some kind of hurt that takes place, so that there's no longer the friendship that was once had. And until you reconcile with that person, either because you've sinned against them or they've sinned against you, or vice versa, you can't have intimacy, you can't have joy, you can't have peace. There's dis-ease, there's rupture, there's conflict, there's pain, until there's reconciliation. You can't just go about saying, "Well, I hurt you, you hurt me, and we're just going to pretend like there is no wound there," and then move forward in the friendship. No. For a friendship to be healthy, for a relationship to be healthy, whenever there's sin that's entered into the relationship and destroyed it or damaged it, there needs to be reconciliation. There needs to be forgiveness. There needs to be repentance. I put them in the wrong order. Repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation.
If that's true of human relationships, then it's also true of a human relationship with God. So, no, there's no sin on God's side of the equation. But there's sin on our side. And that sin leads to a falling out, so to speak, with God. In fact, you could talk about Adam and Eve, the first sin there, sorry, the original falling out. It's like the great falling out. The fall of Adam and Eve is when they fall out of relationship with God. They fall out of friendship with God. Before sin they walk together with Him in the cool of the evening, Genesis says, as friends. Friends stroll together and walk and talk in the evening. But once they sin, now they're hiding from God. And if you've ever had a falling out in a relationship, you know you can start hiding from one another. That's what sin does. It makes us, as St. Augustine said, "Sin is man curved in on himself." Incarvatus in se.
And the same thing's true with our relationship with God. When sin enters into the relationship, we curve inward on ourself and we're no longer able to have friendship and intimacy with God. We tend to hide from Him. And that's not what God desires. And so what Paul's saying here is, "And God loved you enough while you were still a sinner to send His Son to die for you. How much more now that you've been reconciled with Him, shall you be saved by His life?”
For full access subscribe here >