1 Corinthians 6:1-11
This reading from the Gospel of Luke is filled with symbolism but also includes some unexpected challenges. The mountain in scripture has traditionally been the location of theophanies – close, intimate experiences of God. Jesus spent the night on the mountain in prayer, in deep communion with God. Prayer in anticipation of a major decision was the fabric of his life and would be repeated often during his ministry. At daybreak Jesus called his disciples up to the mountain and chose twelve from among them to be his Apostles. They then came down from the mountain to meet many more disciples who were with a large crowd of people seeking to be in the presence of Jesus.
Much preaching has been done over the years on the call of the Apostles and the naming of the Twelve. But I have never heard a homily focusing on "Those Skipped Over" or "Those Not Called" or "I Was Number Thirteen". The Twelve obviously represent the Twelve Tribes of Israel and are symbolic for the fulfillment of God’s reign. But we know that the term disciple and even apostle is much more expansive and inclusive and even women were present within those groups. Many women, mostly unnamed, were followers of Jesus and cared for him out of their own resources. How much fuller the Gospel would be if some of their stories had been included.
When we use the term Apostle how often do we envision only the Twelve? When we picture the "disciples" whom do we see? Then as well as today there are many people, men and women, who are essential but taken for granted and invisible. What is it like to be present but unrecognized or unseen? To contribute and be unacknowledged? To be skipped over through no apparent fault of your own? To be essentially anonymous, unnamed except as part of the "others"? The annals of history, secular as well as Church, name relatively few women as individuals to be remembered for the ages. But in reality, few of us, men or women, will be remembered much after our deaths.
Yet each of us is known and remembered by God. We are called by our name and loved as individuals, unique and precious. Our challenge is to recognize and treat each other as such, recognizing that even in crowds of thousands of anonymous people, each person has a unique life story, is known and loved by God.
Cathy Anthony, M.Div. is on the staff of St. Paul of the Cross Retreat Center, Detroit, Michigan.