Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

They went and joined him

He then went up into the hill-country and called the men he wanted; and they went and joined him. He appointed twelve as his companions, whom he would send out to proclaim the Gospel, with a commission to drive out devils. So he appointed the Twelve: to Simon he gave the name Peter; then came the sons of Zebedee, James and his brother John, to whom he gave the name Boanerges, Sons of Thunder; then Andrew and Philip and Bartholomew and Matthew and Thomas and James the son of Alphaeus and Thaddaeus and Simon, a member of the Zealot party, and Judas Iscariot, the man who betrayed him. (Mark 3:13-19)

WE SEE HERE THAT JESUS desires friendship, just like the rest of us.  No one wants to be lonely. Notice that Mark doesn't use the word apostle, but Jesus appoints the twelve as companions. And they are sent out with two mandates: deliver God's good news and drive out demons. On Sunday we pray the Creed which calls our faith apostolic. That means unlike the hymnal, faith must be taken out of church. 

I might suggest that the good news, joy-bearing part of the Lord's commission is what really needs attention in our Church. Oliver Wendall Holmes wrote: "I would have considered a vocation to the ministry except that so many of the clergy more resembled the undertaker." 

Saint Mark makes about twenty references to Peter. And in any listing of the apostle's names, Peter's name always appears first. Some folks will take this to mean Peter is supreme and hence the first pope, etc. I would say before any of that it means that Peter is the disciple who we should watch most closely. He's the first-disciple. 

Of course, a Catholic would say Mary is the first disciple, the first to welcome Jesus, but don't miss Peter for a second, for surely you'll discover yourself in his behaviors and thinking. Remember, it will be Peter who after Jesus is arrested says to the questioning stranger outside the jail, "I don't even know who you're talking about." 

James and John are among the twelve companions of Jesus. These two will disappoint later when they reveal how poorly they understand Jesus. They'll have their mother speak for them, looking for positions of influence and power at the right and left hands of Jesus in his new kingdom. Talk about getting it wrong! 

Jesus gave the nick-name Sons of Thunder to these two brothers. Maybe they had stormy dispositions, were short-fused hot heads who spoke or acted before thinking. 

Andrew is listed among the twelve. He's a good friend  who makes a point of introducing others to Jesus. There is a charming scene in John's gospel where Andrew introduces to Jesus a little boy who has some bread and fish which will be just what's needed to feed the enormous and hungry crowd. 

Philip and Andrew are Greek names which might cause us to wonder what kind of influences they brought to this first circle of companionship around Jesus. Religion often has a hard time realizing this: we don't all have to be the same!

If Matthew is the Jewish tax-collector who collected taxes from his own people on behalf of the Roman Empire, he'd be a rather lonely man. We might contrast him with Simon who was a Jewish ultra-nationalist (a Rome-hating Zealot). We can only imagine the arguing and resentment there could have been between these two.

So this is a mixed bag of men who might have found it difficult to get along. But Jesus works with what he's got (still). He taught them and corrected them when  needed. The word docility means  to be teachable. And perhaps the first character trait of a humble person is a willingness to take correction. Both are in short supply today.

P.S. We shouldn't sniff at Jesus for not having women counted as his first traveling companions. In the culture of  his ancient Jewish world his mission would never have  gotten off the ground if he had women among the group. It would have been unthinkably scandalous. But if we want to see how important women were to Jesus, we must read Saint Luke's Gospel. 


  1. You open our eyes, allowing us to see Jesus as a person among us. As he still is with us today, in all our faults and difficulties in life. Thank you Father for bringing Him to us in a way we can understand.

  2. Enjoying your Few Words (pauca Verba). Glad to be able to call you friend.

  3. Hello friend from years ago! Glad for this connection through the posts. I send a blessing for all your family - no doubt many more Vigliottas than when we met in '79.

  4. Father, I have met many priests in my life. I cannot say that I have connected with them all, but there have been many good men among them. However, I do feel connected to you here, through what you write, I believe that you are a good man and a good priest who has an enlightened view of modern Catholicism. I know in my heart that you have Jesus and Mary in your heart and you are spreading their messages of love, faith, and tolerance to us all. May God be always with you in your ministry.

  5. Thanks for your kind words. I'm glad for the connection and send a blessing and all good wishes!