Apostles Then and Now
The reading from Matthew’s Gospel passes from the initial teaching and merciful miracles of Jesus, the Anointed One, to his instructions to his 12 closest collaborators, the Apostles. Jesus shares his deep feelings: "His heart was moved with pity, the crowds were lying prostrate from exhaustion… he said to his disciples, ‘the harvest is good but the laborers are scarce. Beg the harvest master to send laborers to gather his harvest.’"
Jesus senses that the coming of God’s Kingdom demands many collaborators. He turns to the 12, the "apostles", his personal ambassadors. He will send them to heal and to announce
"The Kingdom of God is here." In Luke’s account we can read of Jesus exulting in the Spirit and over their success–Satan falling from heaven."
In a wonderful way the Bishops at the Vatican II Council instructed us that the Lord Jesus is doing the same thing in this, our 21st century! "Lay peoples’ right and duty to be apostles derives from their union with Christ, they are assigned by Christ himself to the apostolate and given special gifts" The abilities and powers given at Corinth and Ephesus are seen once more at Chicago, New York and Los Angeles. "The Hand of God is not shortened."
The fruitfulness of every apostolate, whether of the Pope or a lay person depends on a living union with Christ. This is cultivated by reverent use of the Sacraments, but also by their doing their ordinary work as parents and citizens trying to improve the political and social conditions of modern life. As circumstances permit, direct sharing of the faith becomes possible. In accord with their ability and training, lay people can and should fulfill his ministry. The shortage of priests across the world is surely cause for the continued concern of Jesus today! Beg the harvest master to send laborers to gather his harvest."
The Council reflected that in the course of history the use of temporal things has been tarnished by serious defects. Lay people ought themselves to take on as their distinctive task in this renewal of the temporal order.
With the passage of time world culture has expanded, the laity are in the forefront of the work of bringing all things under the Headship of Christ. More Christians are called in more ways to be the laborers in today’s harvest.
Fr. Fred Sucher, C.P. is retired and lives in the Passionist community in Chicago. For many years he taught philosophy to Passionist seminarians.