Today’s First Reading is taken from Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians (2:19-22).
Paul, called “the Apostle to the Gentiles” is writing to the new Christians in Ephesus, who had been pagans before they were baptized. To the Jews, the people of other nations, and other religions, were “foreigners and strangers”. They might live in the same town and on the same street, but is not like that in the church. Gentiles and Jews have equal rights in the church. Not only are they all citizens of the Kingdom of God, but they are members of the family of God the Father.
Paul likens the church to a building. He is not speaking of a structure built of stone and held together with mortar, but one made up of people. The cornerstone is Jesus himself. All other parts of the structure fit into him, so that they will be straight and level. The foundation stones of the Church are the prophets and apostles. In the Hebrew Scriptures, God gave his word to the prophets, who delivered the message to the people. The Apostles are first the Twelve whom Jesus called his closest companions. Later, that title is given to Paul, Barnabas and Silas, whose apostolic mission is to the Gentile nations. God is building the Church on this firm foundation.
In verse 22, the last verse of this reading, Paul writes, “In him (the Lord Jesus), you also are being built together into a dwelling place in which God lives through his Spirit.” The Jews believed that God lived in the center of the Temple. Of course, God is infinite, and cannot be contained in any building. The entire universe, the sun, moon and stars cannot contain him. But the center of the Temple was the “Holy of Holies”; God is present in the entire universe, but, as the Jews saw it, the Holy of Holies was his abode, his dwelling place.
But God did not make the new building out of stones. All the people together are the family of God. His church is present in every age, and in every place throughout the world. Wherever two or three are gathered in his name, he is in their midst. Whenever someone takes time to say “Please God” for a particular intention, or “Thank God”, for a favor granted, he is there. Where charity and love prevail, there God is ever found.
Today’s gospel is taken from Luke (6:12-16).
Jesus knew that his enemies were gathering and his time was coming. He had to decide how his work would continue. So he went up to the mountain to pray, and spent the in prayer to God. At daybreak, Jesus called his disciples together, and chose twelve of them, whom he designated apostles.
The nation of Israel had grown from the twelve sons of Jacob (Genesis 35: 10, 23-26). The foundation of the new people of God would also consist of twelve sons of Israel – another name for Jacob. Simon Peter is always listed first among the apostles. He and his brother Andrew were fishermen, as were James and John, the sons of Zebedee. Philip and Bartholomew were from the seaside town of Bethsaida in Galilee. (Bartholomew is called Nathanael in John 1:45-51).
Matthew, also called Levi, had been a customs tax collector for the Romans. His story was told in greater detail the gospel of September 21, his feast day (Matthew 9:9-13). Thomas was also known as Dydimus, “the twin” (John 11:16). The second Simon was called zelotes in Greek. That may mean that he belonged to a party of Jews who wanted to fight the Romans and force them to leave the country. Or it might simply indicate that he was enthusiastic. Jude, the son of James, is known as Thaddeus in Matthew 10:23 and Mark 3:18. Last (and in some sense least) is Judas Iscariot (the man from Kerioth). Kerioth is a town in Judea, so Judas is the only one of the Twelve who was not a Galilean.
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In the calling of the apostles, after his night in prayer, Jesus set in motion their guidance and commitment—Simon to be called the Zealot for his enthusiasm. Paul was inspired to call us also to reconciliation as fellow citizens with the saints, to build, through the cross of Jesus, a new peace. How can we as Christians share this enthusiasm?
We are aware that nature is becoming a priority in our thinking about climate change. All around, God reminds us of his beauty, glory and power—so we need to make efforts to preserve a sense of wonder and praise for his handiwork as we watch a sunset or a coming storm. Caring for our environment combined with care and love for our neighbor, whatever their color or race, is an essential commitment for our participation in God’s creation of peace.
Dear Jesus, teach us the enthusiasm of your apostles for becoming a holy temple in the Lord and a dwelling place of the Spirit.
Madonna, Daily Prayers