20 January
Mk 3:13-19

Jesus went up the mountain and called to him those whom he wanted, and they came to him. And he appointed twelve, whom he also named apostles, to be with him, and to be sent out to proclaim the message, and to have authority to cast out demons. So he appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); James son of Zebedee and John the brother of James (to whom he gave the name Boanerges, that is, Sons of Thunder); and Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him. Then he went home. 

“To be with him” and “to be sent out.”  These phrases mean opposite things, and yet they occur beside each other on the page.  If he wanted them to be with him, why did he send them out? 

Mark often uses this phrase ‘to be with (him)’: 2:19; 4:36; 5:18; 14:14, 67; 15:41.  It is said to be almost his definition of discipleship.  Peter was Mark’s source, and Peter wrote about the time “when we were with him on the holy mountain” (2 Peter 1:18).  In today’s reading, too, it is a mountain.  To be a disciple is to be with him on the holy mountain of prayer and meditation.  But neither he nor they stayed forever on the mountain; they “went out” to the whole world.  Every disciple is called not only to be with him but to go out to others.  Prayer and action, said St Catherine of Siena, are like our two feet: we need them both if we are to follow the Way. 

But what about Judas?  We have perhaps been too ready to write off Judas.  If he is a complete write-off, then so are we all!  Jesus spent the night in prayer and then called Judas (among others) to be a follower; and Judas followed.  Later he made that tragic mistake – due possibly to his eagerness to get Jesus to act, rather than to a desire to betray him.  If he acted only out of greed for money, then he should have been happy when he had that money in his pocket.  Instead he was plunged into despair and he took his own life.  A mere greed for money could never explain his suicide.  He was a more complex man than that.  He had not spent enough time on the mountain.

 

 

 
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This page gives a very brief commentary by Donagh O’Shea on the gospel reading for each day of the month. 

 

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