April 8 - Disciples: Of the world or apart from the world?

July 29, 2019 at 12:37 p.m.

The Word

The relationship of the disciple of Jesus to the world was a very challenging topic of consideration for the early Church. In the face of opposition and persecution there were those who believed that any extraneous contact with the world was potentially corrupting so they withdrew from the world. Many went into the desert and eventually there arose the eremitic movements in the Church. This would form the basis of the religious orders.

There were also those who believed that Christians needed to be engaged in the world while remaining not of the world. In this sense they continued to function within the marketplace and in the urban areas and yet practiced their faith, though often secretly so that they would not draw undue attention to themselves. This was the more common form of discipleship.

Much of this struggle is rooted in the writing of the evangelist John. His view of Jesus and his ministry was to be separate from the world. Jesus often instructed his disciples that they were to not be a part of the world but rather apart from the world. They needed to avoid the possibility of corruption and the temptation to sin. Believe in Jesus, follow the commandments, and love one another, and you will have eternal life. It is so simple sounding while yet very complex in meaning.

The disciples of Jesus following the arrest and execution of Jesus withdrew from the world and went into hiding. They remained locked in the upper room where they had gathered with Jesus to celebrate the coming Passover. They withdrew, not out of the conviction that they had a special or important mission, but because they were afraid. John repeatedly emphasizes this sense of fear that inhibited the disciples from acting.

When Jesus appears to them they react in an awed sense of fear. They are not quite sure what to make of Jesus and the teaching of the resurrection. Jesus had spoken of resurrection and they were witnesses to the raising of Lazarus not long before. Resurrection was a part of the teaching of some of the more forward thinking Jewish groups, like the Pharisees. They knew that Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead, but who raised Jesus? After the raising of Lazarus he looked and seemed as before. He was restored to this life and to this world.

When Jesus appeared before them he was completely different. Jesus entered a locked room without opening the door. He still carried the marks of his crucifixion he yet was not suffering. His appearance was not the same. They barely recognized who he was, yet they knew it was he.

Jesus sends them out into the world. They do not go immediately rather they take the time to understand more fully what has just happened. There is no suddenness of change here. A week later, when Jesus returns, they are all in the same place.

One of them, Thomas, was absent when Jesus first appeared. He was somewhere else, we know not where. He cannot accept what the disciples report about the appearance of Jesus to the rest of them. Even though Jesus appeared to them, bestowed the Holy Spirit upon them with the power to forgive sins, they remained hidden and apart from the world.

This is a risk that we all run. The fear of the response of the world to our life of faith can be paralyzing. The suspicion and incredulity, perhaps even the anger and disappointment of family, friends, co-workers, or classmates, keeps us hidden in the upper room of our own private and personal relationship with Jesus. We have all been there at some point in our lives. We live in fear of the practice of faith. When we do so we fail to be true to the mission on which we were sent. The disciples failed their first mission of evangelizing. Because they were unchanged in response to their encounter with Jesus they were unable to convince Thomas, one of their own, one of the twelve, that they had seen the Lord.

We need to live and act in the world as though we have seen the Lord. It is then that we can call ourselves disciples.

Father Garry Koch is pastor of St. Benedict Parish, Holmdel.

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The relationship of the disciple of Jesus to the world was a very challenging topic of consideration for the early Church. In the face of opposition and persecution there were those who believed that any extraneous contact with the world was potentially corrupting so they withdrew from the world. Many went into the desert and eventually there arose the eremitic movements in the Church. This would form the basis of the religious orders.

There were also those who believed that Christians needed to be engaged in the world while remaining not of the world. In this sense they continued to function within the marketplace and in the urban areas and yet practiced their faith, though often secretly so that they would not draw undue attention to themselves. This was the more common form of discipleship.

Much of this struggle is rooted in the writing of the evangelist John. His view of Jesus and his ministry was to be separate from the world. Jesus often instructed his disciples that they were to not be a part of the world but rather apart from the world. They needed to avoid the possibility of corruption and the temptation to sin. Believe in Jesus, follow the commandments, and love one another, and you will have eternal life. It is so simple sounding while yet very complex in meaning.

The disciples of Jesus following the arrest and execution of Jesus withdrew from the world and went into hiding. They remained locked in the upper room where they had gathered with Jesus to celebrate the coming Passover. They withdrew, not out of the conviction that they had a special or important mission, but because they were afraid. John repeatedly emphasizes this sense of fear that inhibited the disciples from acting.

When Jesus appears to them they react in an awed sense of fear. They are not quite sure what to make of Jesus and the teaching of the resurrection. Jesus had spoken of resurrection and they were witnesses to the raising of Lazarus not long before. Resurrection was a part of the teaching of some of the more forward thinking Jewish groups, like the Pharisees. They knew that Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead, but who raised Jesus? After the raising of Lazarus he looked and seemed as before. He was restored to this life and to this world.

When Jesus appeared before them he was completely different. Jesus entered a locked room without opening the door. He still carried the marks of his crucifixion he yet was not suffering. His appearance was not the same. They barely recognized who he was, yet they knew it was he.

Jesus sends them out into the world. They do not go immediately rather they take the time to understand more fully what has just happened. There is no suddenness of change here. A week later, when Jesus returns, they are all in the same place.

One of them, Thomas, was absent when Jesus first appeared. He was somewhere else, we know not where. He cannot accept what the disciples report about the appearance of Jesus to the rest of them. Even though Jesus appeared to them, bestowed the Holy Spirit upon them with the power to forgive sins, they remained hidden and apart from the world.

This is a risk that we all run. The fear of the response of the world to our life of faith can be paralyzing. The suspicion and incredulity, perhaps even the anger and disappointment of family, friends, co-workers, or classmates, keeps us hidden in the upper room of our own private and personal relationship with Jesus. We have all been there at some point in our lives. We live in fear of the practice of faith. When we do so we fail to be true to the mission on which we were sent. The disciples failed their first mission of evangelizing. Because they were unchanged in response to their encounter with Jesus they were unable to convince Thomas, one of their own, one of the twelve, that they had seen the Lord.

We need to live and act in the world as though we have seen the Lord. It is then that we can call ourselves disciples.

Father Garry Koch is pastor of St. Benedict Parish, Holmdel.

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