After praying all night, Jesus chose his twelve Apostles, the incipient Church. Who are they? They are the most unexceptional, unremarkable, rag-tag bunch of fishermen, zealots, tax-collecting self-centered, thick-headed, doubting men, filled with fear masked by bravado.
Never did 12 men ever change the course of history like these 12, but never did a leader ever have more trouble with his followers than Jesus had with these 12. Why did Jesus choose this bunch? Did they lie on their resumes? Did Jesus not check them out before he made his selection?
The answer lies in the mystery of who Jesus is. Jesus chose those who would most resemble him at the moment of his crucifixion. It is when Jesus is weakest, most broken, most vulnerable, most frail – nailed to the cross – that he is strongest. God’s strength was unleashed on the cross, at the moment of our redemption. What makes us most like Christ is our frail humanity. The Apostle Paul proclaims this mystery: “When I am weak, then I am strong.”
Throughout Scripture we hear repeatedly how God’s strength is made perfect in weakness.
Job said, “I abhor myself.”
“Moses pleaded, “Pick somebody else, I’m no good at speaking.”
“Isaiah said, “I am a man of unclean lips.
“David cried out, “My sin is ever before me.
“Peter begged, “Depart from me, for I am a wicked man.
“Paul groaned, “The evil which I would not, that I do.”
And therein lies the Good News for us. We don’t have to worry about being qualified to be used by God. Does anyone lack self-esteem, feel ungifted and inadequate? Congratulations. Those are just the qualifications God is looking for. He specializes in using people who are not fit for the job.
God, who has all strength, doesn’t need our puny strengths. But we do have something God doesn’t have, something God wants – our weakness. Just as Jesus called the 12 in their stunning frailty, he also calls us to surrender our broken, crucified, weakness to him. Only then will God’s power qualify us, empower us, unleash us, transform us to do his work.
Deacon Manuel Valencia is on the staff at Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center, Sierra Madre, California.