Jesus Sends the Apostles
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During the days after the Resurrection on the first Easter Sunday, Jesus appeared to his friends many times. He used these visits to instruct them in the work of spreading the gospel and building up the Church on earth. He began this instruction the very first time he appeared to them. "As the Father has sent me, so I send you." Then he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive men's sins, they are forgiven them; if you hold them bound, they are held bound (Jn 20:21-23). And so Jesus gave the apostles a special power they would need as the first priests and bishops of the Church: the power to forgive sins. With this power, the apostles could bring God's mercy and forgiveness to all Christians. Later, they would pass this power on to others who would take their place.
One of the eleven apostles, Thomas, missed this meeting. He had not yet seen the risen Jesus and still did not believe. "Not until I see the nail marks in his hands, and put my hand into his side, will I believe such a thing", said Thomas. A week later, Jesus appeared again. This time Thomas was there. "Here Thomas, bring you finger and touch my hands", said Jesus. Put your hand into my side. Doubt no longer, but believe." "My Lord and my God," answered Thomas (Jn 20:24-29).
We should find joy in the reply which Jesus made to Thomas because he mentioned us. He said, "Because you have seen, you believe. Blessed are they who do not see, yet believe all the same." We believe in Jesus although we have not seen him. Our faith will be rewarded.
Later, at the Sea of Tiberius the apostles decided to go fishing, just as they used to do before they had known Jesus. They spent the whole night on the lake, but caught nothing. As they rowed toward the shore the next morning, a man on the beach called out, "Did you catch anything?" When they told him, "No", he said. "Try throwing your net to right of the boat. You will find something there." They followed the advice and pulled in a tremendous load of fish. "It is the Lord", shouted John. Peter remembered with joy the first time Jesus gave them a miraculous catch of fish. That had been the day he had called Peter to follow him. Now Peter quickly dived into the lake and swam to the beach while the other disciples brought in the boat and net full of fish. Jesus had built a fire, and he fixed them breakfast.
When they finished eating, Jesus stood up and spoke to Peter. He asked, "Do you love me?" Peter answered that he did, and Jesus replied, "Feed my lambs." Again Jesus asked whether Peter loved him. Peter answered, and Jesus said, "Feed my lambs." Again Jesus asked whether Peter loved him. Peter answered, and Jesus said, "Feed my sheep." When Jesus had asked the third time, "Do you love me?", Peter was upset. Did Jesus doubt him? "Please, Lord, you know all things", said Peter. "You know I love you." Jesus again replied, "Feed my sheep."
With these words, Jesus again singled Peter out as the leader of his Church. He made Peter the shepherd of all - even of the other apostles. That is why Peter became leader of the Church on earth - the very first Pope.
After the forty days had passed, it was time for Jesus to return to his Father in Heaven. The disciples had learned much from Jesus during that time, but Jesus knew they needed something more before they could preach the gospel courageously and faithfully. He promised to send the Holy Spirit, who would give them the knowledge, faith, and power they needed.
Jesus led the eleven, plus many of his other followers, up the slope of Mount Olivet. He gave his final instruction to the disciples: Full authority has been given to me both in Heaven and on earth: go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations. Baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Teach them to carry out everything I have commanded you. And know that I am with you always, until the end of the world (Mt 28:18-20).
Then Jesus ascended into Heaven. "He was lifted up before their eyes in a cloud which took him from their sight". As the apostles stared into the empty sky, two angels appeared. "Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking up at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken from you will return, just as you saw him go up into the Heavens" (Acts 1:11).
Recognizing Jesus in Others
The disciples did not recognize Jesus on the road to Emmaus. We, too, often have Jesus with us and do not even know it.
How can this be? Remember Our Lord's words in the Gospel: "Whenever you did it to the least of my brothers, you did it to me." Jesus is with us in the poor, the hungry, the sick, the lonely, and all those who need our love. When we think of helping the needy, we usually think of giving our money or donating food and clothing to people we will never see. But Jesus is present in everyone around us. The member of the family who may be lonely and needs your friendship, the co-worker whose personality is not always pleasant: we should find Jesus in each one of them.
On a cold night many centuries ago, a soldier named Martin met a beggar who had on almost no clothes. Martin had nothing but his own cloak to give. So he cut it in half, giving part to the beggar, and wrapping the rest around himself. That night, Martin had a dream in which Jesus appeared wearing half of the cloak. "Martin has given this to me", said Jesus. Soon thereafter, Martin became a Christian and grew in generosity and holiness. Today he is known as Saint Martin of Tours.
Used with the permission of The Ignatius Press 800-799-5534
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