Saint Jerome points out an important fact about today’s Gospel. Judas, one of the twelve, was also granted the power to work miracles in Jesus’ name. We don’t know if he actually performed any miracles, but it is quite probable that he did. He was probably just as involved in the ministry of healing and deliverance as the other eleven chosen and sent by Jesus. This serves to rectify an important misconception about miracle-workers: their ability to work miracles is neither the evidence of their moral rectitude nor the reason we should listen to what they have to say. If some have the gift of healing and others do not, it is not a way to measure holiness. Special gifts are not a reflection of a special love by God for an individual, or some kind of reward system. They are given by God for the service and edification of the Church – if we use them well as good stewards we will be honored, if we squander them selfishly we will enter the kingdom of heaven and the talent will be taken away from us. But Judas’ greatest failure was not his betrayal of Jesus, it was his despair. St. Peter denied Jesus even after His teaching, “Whoever denies me before men, I will deny before my heavenly Father.”1 St. Peter did not lose hope and in his heart sought reconciliation and a greater humility to cooperate with God’s grace.
Do we want to be perfect in our own eyes? In the eyes of others? Or do we want to humbly follow the path that Jesus traces for us? We will fall, we do fall, but we can understand through our weaknesses that God’s power and grace are transforming us at a much deeper level. Trusting humbly in His mercy, and cooperating with the grace He gives us will liberate us from our obsession with human perfection.
Having good shoots and fruit-bearing branches, she [Israel] produced many clusters, and the abundance of the grapes equaled the great number of the branches. But she who before was of such a kind offended God afterward, turning the abundance of the fruits into a great number of offenses. The more people she had, the more altars she built, and she overmatched the abundance of the land by the number of the idols.2
The kind and merciful Lord and Master does not begrudge his followers and disciples their powers. Even as he had healed every disease and every infirmity, he empowered his apostles to heal every disease and every infirmity. But there is a great gap between having and granting, between giving and receiving. Whatever he does, he does in the power of the Lord. Whatever they do, they display their own weakness and the power of the Lord, saying, “In the name of Jesus, arise and walk.” It must be noted, further, that the power to work miracles is granted to the apostles even to the twelfth man.3
If the Spirit had not yet been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified, how then did the disciples cast out the unclean spirits? They did this by his own command, by the Son’s authority.
Note the careful timing of their mission. They were not sent out at the beginning of their walk with him. They were not sent out until they had sufficiently benefited by following him daily. It was only after they had seen the dead raised, the sea rebuked, devils expelled, the legs of a paralytic brought to life, sins remitted, lepers cleansed, and had received a sufficient proof of his power both by deeds and words—only then did he send them out. And he did not send them out unprepared to do dangerous deeds, for as yet there was no danger in Palestine. They had only to stand against verbal abuse. However, Jesus still warned them of larger perils to come, preparing them for what was future.4
He described him as a betrayer, not as if he were viewed as enemy or adversary but as one writing a history. He does not say “the abominable, the utterly despicable one” but simply named him from his city, “Judas Iscariot.” He does so because there was also another Judas, “Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus,” who Luke identifies as the brother of James, writing, “Judas the brother of James.” Therefore to distinguish him from this man, the text simply reads, “Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.” Matthew is not ashamed to speak of his betrayal. There was no attempt to disguise things that might seem to be matters of reproach. At the very top of the list is the unlearned Peter. Now see what happens: “These twelve,” it is said, “Jesus sent!”5
Simon the Cananaean is the one whom another Evangelist calls the Zealot. In fact, Cana interpreted means “zeal.” Church history relates that the apostle Thaddaeus was sent to Edessa, Abgarum in the region of Osroene. The person whom Luke the Evangelist calls Jude the brother of James, elsewhere called Lebbaeus, which interpreted means “little heart,” is believed to have been referred to by three names. Simon Peter and the sons of Zebedee (called sons of thunder) were named for their strength of mind and great faith. Judas Iscariot took his name either from his hometown or from the tribe of Issachar. By a certain prophecy he was born in condemnation of himself, for Issachar interpreted means “reward,” as to signify the price of the traitor.6
This passage is not contrary to the command given later: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” The former command was given before the resurrection and the latter after the resurrection. It was necessary to announce Christ’s first coming to the Jews, lest they have a good excuse for saying that the Lord rejected them because he had sent the apostles to the Gentiles and the Samaritans. In line with the metaphor, we who call ourselves Christians are advised not to walk in the ways of the Gentiles and heretics, for they have not only a separate religion but also a separate way of life.7
Do you perceive the unparalleled magnificence of their ministry? Do you comprehend the dignity of the apostles? They are not authorized to speak of things perceivable by the senses. They do not repeat what Moses said or the prophets before them. Rather, they spoke of new and strange things. Moses and the prophets spoke of temporal promises of an earthly land. The apostles proclaimed the kingdom of heaven and all that this implies.
Not only does the loftiness of their message characterize them as greater, but so does the lowly nature of their obedience. They were not reluctant nor irresolute, like those who came before. Instead, warned as they were of perils, wars and intolerable evils, they receive his commands with simple obedience. They immediately became heralds of the coming kingdom.8
GREGORY THE GREAT:
If someone’s house were shaken and threatened with ruin, whoever lived in it would flee. The one who loved it when it was standing would hasten to leave it as soon as possible when it was falling. Therefore if the world is falling, and we embrace it by loving it, we are choosing rather to be overwhelmed than to live in it. Nothing separates us from its ruin insofar as our love binds us by our attachment to it.
It is easy now, when we see everything heading for destruction, to disengage our minds from love of the world. But then it was very difficult, because the disciples were sent to preach the unseen kingdom of heaven at the very time when everyone far and wide could see the kingdoms of earth flourishing.9
- Matthew 10:33
- COMMENTARY ON HOSEA 2.10. Ferreiro, A. (2003). Introduction to the Twelve Prophets. In A. Ferreiro (Ed.), The Twelve Prophets (p. 40). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- COMMENTARY ON MATTHEW 1.10.1. Simonetti, M. (Ed.). (2001). Matthew 1–13 (p. 191). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW, HOMILY 32.3. Simonetti, M. (Ed.). (2001). Matthew 1–13 (pp. 191–192). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW, HOMILY 32.3. Simonetti, M. (Ed.). (2001). Matthew 1–13 (p. 192). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- COMMENTARY ON MATTHEW 1.10.2. Simonetti, M. (Ed.). (2001). Matthew 1–13 (p. 193). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- COMMENTARY ON MATTHEW 1.10.5–6. Simonetti, M. (Ed.). (2001). Matthew 1–13 (p. 194). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW, HOMILY 32.4. Simonetti, M. (Ed.). (2001). Matthew 1–13 (p. 195). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- FORTY GOSPEL HOMILIES 4.2. Simonetti, M. (Ed.). (2001). Matthew 1–13 (p. 195). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.