Jesus went up to the mountain to pray,
and he spent the night in prayer to God.
When day came, he called his disciples to himself,
and from them he chose Twelve, whom he also named Apostles: Simon, whom he named Peter, and his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew,
Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called a Zealot, and Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.
This week the Church celebrated the feast day of the Apostles St. Simon and St. Jude. The Gospel for the feast day (Luke 6:12-16) is short but can teach us something about the delicate care and attention Jesus took in choosing His apostles. The opening lines of this Gospel reading explain that Jesus “spent the night in prayer to God.” This is significant. Not only was the selection of the apostles born out of prayer, it was born out of the relationship-the love between Christ and the Father.
In scriptures, Jesus often goes away from everyone to be alone with The Father, especially before something of major significance (ie. The Garden of Gethsemane). In this case Christ, following God’s plan for salvation, must have sought the exact number of disciples to call and who among all of God’s people He would call. This was no simple task, yet it was undertaken with great diligence and love.
Imagine for a moment the intense prayer that must have taken place that night as Jesus sought the Father’s will for the creation of His Church and the selection of His first priests. Imagine the Lord pouring Himself out asking the Father to guide His decision, to make the right choice, constantly asking for God’s will to be done. Jesus’s heart must have held both joy and trouble as the faces of each disciple came to His mind. Did he weep when He envisioned Simon Peter’s denial or Judas’s betrayal? Did He think about the great sacrifices each one would make, their martyrdom and suffering? Did he smile in gratitude and joy when thinking about the great signs and wonders the disciples would do in His name, bringing others to a relationship with the Father, reconciling the world to Himself? I imagine the prayer ended with a certain peaceful as he thought about each disciple’s faith as they expressed a heartfelt “Yes” to His call.
It is God who calls, who selects men for the ministry of the Priesthood of Jesus Christ. It is not the effect of some catchy commercial or marketing technique. It is not the result of a quota, which needs to be filled. Instead each call is born from within the very heart of God Himself. The call of each priest is born from the careful, loving thought of Christ because of His love for the Church. Christ loves the Church. He loves each of us and knows each of our stories. He knows what we have been created to do. He laid down His life for the Church so that those who follow Him may receive the light of life. Self-sacrificial love is one that always seeks the best for the other, not looking for anything in return. He patiently awaits each person to answer His call.