Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator
Each of the synoptic Gospels provides us with a list of the Twelve. These men were chosen from among the disciples of Jesus and commissioned or sent to preach the Good News and to carry on the other aspects of Jesus' ministry. Their number is symbolic mirroring the twelve sons of Jacob who became the patriarchs of the twelve tribes of Israel.
What always impresses me in the listing of their names is the fact that they are a diverse group. About the only thing we can say that they have in common is their Jewish faith. The obvious reason for choosing a varied group is that Jesus is a universal figure who is appealing to a broad range of constituents who will eventually be the vanguard for the emerging Christian community.
While we know more details about some of the Twelve, we also know that this group was "sent." The name "apostle" means "one who is sent." Their commission included the task of preaching but was not limited to that. They were also sent to cure, to heal, and to cast out demons. In short, they were to carry the mission of Jesus beyond the physical limitations of the one.
A pastor that I knew some years ago used this very model in shepherding his flock. He concentrated his efforts on twelve people in his flock while ministering to the needs of the whole group. Over the years, the twelve who received his fullest attention extended that to twelve more who then concentrated on another twelve. The effect was transformative. Instead of a community of a few enthusiasts and a majority of tepid followers, the parish was gradually transformed into a very active and committed group of Christians whose outreach was felt throughout their community. One might even refer to this method as Jesus' "business model." When one stops to consider the change that came into the world because of the original Twelve, it is easy to see the wisdom of Jesus' choices.