Jesus went out to the mountain to pray; and he spent the night in prayer to God. And when day came, he called his disciples and chose twelve of them, whom he also named apostles: Simon, whom he named Peter, and his brother Andrew, and James, and John, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James son of Alphaeus, and Simon, who was called the Zealot, and Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.
Luke’s gospel focuses almost obsessively on the prayer of Jesus. The other gospel writers say that when Jesus was in the Jordan the Spirit descended on him as a dove; Luke says it was while he was praying that this happened. The others say Jesus climbed the mountain and was transfigured; Luke says that this happened while he was praying. The others say that Jesus died on the cross; Luke says that even when he was dying he was praying for the people who were killing him. The others say that Jesus chose twelve disciples; Luke says (today’s reading) that it was after he had spent a night in prayer that he chose them….
You would be surprised, if you looked around, at the number of people who spend the night – or part of the night – in prayer. Traditionally monks got up to pray in the middle of the night, but now you sometimes hear of lay people who do so. Night – especially on a mountain – seems the perfect setting for prayer. All the noise of day has died away, the world seems vast because we cannot see the contours of things so clearly, and darkness itself is deeply peaceful when we don’t project our fears onto it. Though darkness is vast, it is also strangely intimate, because you can't see, but only feel, the distance. The senses are not battered, and so we feel more alert, more alive. We can only imagine what passed in the soul of Jesus as he prayed all night on the mountain top.
Then when day came he chose Judas Iscariot as one of his apostles! Did he make a mistake? We wouldn’t want to say such a thing. Then there must be another meaning. The one who told the story of the Prodigal Son have forgiven him, as he forgave Peter, had he just waited. The Church is not a community of perfect people but a community of sinners who struggle on by the grace of Christ.
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