Father Joseph, one of the excellent priests at my parish, offers a kind of Bible study on Monday evenings. Instead of studying a Bible book, we look at the upcoming readings for the following Sunday, how they relate together, historical background, and so on. The group is small so everyone interacts more than in some larger classes.
One of the things I have noticed again and again is how “dense” the apostles were. One moment, they seem to have great clarity as to who exactly Jesus is. The next moment, they appear unsure. Our Lord often rebukes them for their lack of faith. A recent Gospel reading (Matthew 14:22-33) when Jesus walked on water is but one of many examples.
This almost schizophrenic nature of the Apostles continues right through our Lord’s Passion. One moment professing undying devotion to the Lord, the next (as if they were someone else) denying Him. Reading the Good News is like a roller coaster ride.
Finally at Pentecost, the Apostles truly and permanently understand all that they have seen and heard. The Holy Spirit fills them with grace so that they may fulfill Jesus’ command to “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.” The Apostles after Pentecost were significantly different than their pre-Pentecost, version 1.0 selves.
Please understand, I have the utmost respect for the Apostles – after all, they were chosen by God! I see rather, parallels to ourselves in them. We are also called to holiness and like the pre-Pentecost Apostles, we too struggle in our journey of conversion. Sometimes we make great strides. Other times we slide backward a little.
Through the spiritual struggles of the Apostles, God speaks to us in communicating the Gospel. We identify with their their conversion and their faith. After the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Apostles are prototypical Saints. They were the first “torch bearers” of our faith passed through the millennia all the way to today’s Catholic bishops. We too are called to be saints and to be more than “followers” – to be disciples.
The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them. When they saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted. Then Jesus approached and said to them, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”
When Jesus said to Peter “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” He is talking to us too.