Going to the Lost Sheep

10 Jul

calling of disciplesIn today’s Gospel, we hear St. Matthew’s account of the call of the Twelve Apostles (Mt. 10:1-7). Two points really struck me as I listened to the inspired text.

First, the New Testament gives us four lists of the Apostles (Mt. 10:2-4; Mk. 3:14-19; Lk. 6:13-16; Acts 1:13, 26). The four lists are not identical, but they all mention St. Peter first. Three different apostles (Andrew, James or John) are named second, depending on which list we’re reading, but Peter is always first.

This is a fairly simple point, but nonetheless an important one that strongly suggests the recognition of the primacy of Peter among the Twelve. This is completely separate from a study of other significant scenes where Our Lord addresses Peter alone (especially Matthew 16, Luke 5, and John 21) or where Jesus is with His “inner circle” of Apostles (Peter, James, and John) at key moments, such as the Transfiguration or Agony in the Garden.

The other point that struck me today was Jesus’s curious instruction to the newly commissioned Twelve in Matthew 10:5-6: “Do not go into pagan territory or enter a Samaritan town. Go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

Clearly the master plan is to invite all men and women into the New Covenant family–that is, the Church (see Mt. 28:18-20; Mk.16:16; Catechism, no. 543). Yet Jesus instructs His leaders to follow a certain progression (see also Acts 1:8). After all, the Israelites were the chosen people, God’s special possession. Through His relationship with Israel through salvation history, God would eventually fulfill His promise to Abraham to bless all nations through him (cf. Gen. 22:18).

I see a similar dynamic at work in the “new evangelization.” The master plan has not changed: We want to invite all men and women to a relationship with Christ and His Church. Yet there is a sense that we must first reach out to the “lost sheep” in our midst: cradle Catholics, uncatechized Catholics, alienated or disenfranchised Catholics, former Catholics, “cultural” Catholics, or any other sort of Catholic who for any reason needs to hear anew (or for the first time) the good news. It may begin with a smile, an act of friendship or service, or simply a heart-felt invitation to come home.

After all, it’s really not about the Twelve. Nor is it about those of us who are already active in the Church. It is about helping others come to Jesus.

One Response to “Going to the Lost Sheep”

  1. kkollwitz December 28, 2013 at 10:44 pm #

    I had a good conversation with a former Catholic in the Bible section of the local used bookstore today. Ya never know when there will be a chance to evangelize.

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