20 January 2006

Summoned? Step up!

2nd Week OT (Fri): 1 Sam 24.3-21; Mark 3.13-19
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
Church of the Incarnation, University of Dallas

The demons loudly witnessed to Jesus’ authority as the Son of God. They writhe and wail when he preaches the Word, shouting at him, “What do you have to do with us?!” They understand, much better then we do most of the time, that Jesus is the Source of our lives and our salvation; he is the creator, the One Who Gives Direction and Purpose; and he is the Killer of Death and the Risen One. The demons writhe and wail because they know that Jesus’ authority is more than just legitimate legal power or profound social influence. His authority is founded in the creation of everything that is, rooted in the very fabric, the elemental stuff of every world there is. He is the Author of the universal story.

And one day, on a mountain, he picked from those who followed him, a small group of twelve and established the apostolic line, the college or collection of those who will go out, build-up, and carry on in his name. Jesus, desiring that his teaching survive and thrive beyond his life with the disciples, sets up a means for his teaching to be handed on, to be carried out and held up, passed on with authority. He chooses twelve, just twelve, to be bearers of his name to the world, teachers of his Way, and preachers of his Word. And not just any twelve, but The Twelve, summoned by name, pulled out of the crowd and set apart for the work of authentic evangelization.

Look closely at how Mark reports this process: 1) Jesus summons those whom he wanted, 2) they came to him, 3) he appointed them, 4) named them Apostles that they might be with him, 5) and be sent forth to preach, 6) and have authority over demons. And then we have their names. Notice that there was no nominating committee, no caucus to hash out acceptable candidates, no negotiation of the terms of employment, no participation by representatives of the diverse interests of the crowd, and no consultations with the benefactors. And they didn't appoint themsleves! Jesus summoned those whom he wanted. And they came to him.

Why? Why did these Twelve come to him? The Word seduces. And draws. He lures. And captures. Jesus the Word of God shines out unsayable beauty, unblinking truth, and his glory is diffusive. It spreads. It scatters and collects. Broadcasts and gathers, going out to bring back in. His Word touches our word and we are caught—fish in the net, sparrow in the branch—caught to be re-made, re-fashioned, done again in his image. It is our desire to be his love that drives us toward him. We are gifted with the summons to be his always. The Twelve—men, just men—answer. They come to him. And they are appointed to be with him, to go out, to preach, and take command of the forces of the dark.

Jesus summoned these men to be for him a living legacy, a lasting reach into our future, and we know them now as our bishops. Though he summoned these Twelve for this job, he summons us for other jobs, other tasks that require our gifts, our special skills and temperaments. Will we answer and come? Will we accept the authority of the Author of our lives and our salvation and answer him: “Yes, Lord! I will do your will.” What holds us back—fear, meagerness of heart, jealousy, pride, cowardice, self-righteous judgment, habitual sin—all of these are smoke, ash, nothing, absolutely nothing, in his light.

Your name is called. Summoned, standing before him, strengthened by his glory, say, “Yes, Lord!” Pick it up. Get out there. Preach his Word. Fight the darkness.

Be an apostle everytime, wherever you are.


  1. Anonymous6:19 AM

    The problem is, called to do what. I, a female feeled called to be a priest. Well, no, that can't be. Suppose, I'm blind, and I feel called to be a neurosurgeon. Exaggeration aside, discernment is the major problem. I want to do what Jesus has called me to do...if I knew what it is.

  2. Faith,

    You're absolutely right. I often find that people don't believe that they are called by God to be apostles at all. They limit the call to service to those willing to take on celibacy, etc. and live as vowed religious and priests. My emphasis in this homily is on the idea that Jesus called The Twelve, yes, but he also calls us, all of us, to live like the apostles--to go out, preach, build up, etc. As a Dominican I firmly believe in the notion "grace builds on nature," that is, God takes us as He has made us and then begins to shape us (with our cooperation) into a finely honed tool for His will. The trick for us is to figure out how we will cooperate with God's grace. My student master, Fr. Michael Mascari, OP, of the Central Province, told us once that we know we are cooperating with God's grace when we are experiencing Joy after Joy after Joy. Make sense?

    Fr. Philip