Flash

"MATHETES" 05/31/11

On August 28, 1945, Branch Rickey, the general manger for the Brooklyn Dodgers, now the Los Angeles Dodgers, signed a free agent to a Major League Baseball (MLB) contract.  Signing free agents was Rickey’s job and the normal course of business; however this signing was historically different and significant because the man signing the contract was a black man, the first man to break the “color” barrier in MLB, Jackie Robinson.  Jackie played the 1946 season in the minor leagues, with the Montreal Royals, and then in April of 1947, Jackie officially broke the color barrier, when he put on number 42 and played that year with the Brooklyn Dodgers.

 

Jackie was a base stealing dynamo and a hitting machine, so much so that he was the first ever “Rookie of the Year,” he also won the MVP, Most Valuable Player award in 1949, he was a six time All Star, and won the World Series in 1956.  Jackie was elected into the Hall of Fame in 1962 and in one of the greatest honors in all of sports, in 1997, MLB retired his number 42 in all of MLB, meaning that NO ONE on any MLB team, can ever wear that number again, and every year, on April 15, every single player in MLB, honors his legacy by wearing number 42. You may notice that Mariano Rivera of the NY Yankees still wears 42, this is because he wore it before MLB retired the number, when Mariano takes off number 42 for the last time, no other Yankee will ever put it on again.

 

Today, with Mark the Evangelist, we are going to reflect on what is means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.  To begin this reflection, I want you to try to put yourself back in time, back to the Jim Crow era in the United States, when prejudice and racism were the norm, when blacks and whites were segregated; the days of separate drinking fountains, schools, hotels, restaurants, and nightclubs, etc.  Without ignoring that hatred based on race and prejudice still exist today, what I want us to imagine, are the day to day struggles a black man would have in that era, just showing up to work and doing the job he was getting paid to do.  Beside the fact that Jackie could not sleep in the same hotels and eat in the same restaurants as his own teammates, at the stadium, his place of employment, daily his manhood, his origins, his family, his life, was challenged, by the most vile and filthy language known to man, not only from the fans but also from the opposing players and sadly some of his own teammates.

 

Opposing pitchers would try to intimidate him by beaning him, throwing the ball directly at his head, on the base paths when Jackie would cover second base, they would try to spike him, slide in high with their cleats and try to injure him, he was constantly receiving death threats, challenged to fistfights, and looking over his shoulder. How could Jackie, literally for years, withstand the taunts, betrayals, challenges, lies, racism, hatred, and filth, he was subjected too, and on top of all that go out an perform, year after year, like an All Star?

 

I believe, the answer lies in the manner in which Jackie’s career ended.  With MLB, like all professional sports, the abiding question is “what have you done for me lately?” meaning you can be Rookie of the Year, MVP, six time All Star, but if you get injured, old, or if management thinks they can trade you for someone better, you are gone, no matter who you are: Joe Montana, Wilt Chamberlain, or Babe Ruth, it’s all business, you are gone, and that’s what happened to Jackie.

 

What is different and beautiful is this.  When Branch Rickey came to Jackie and said, “We traded you to the New York Giants,” and please remember that for all his professional career, the Giants had been Jackies/Brooklyns arch enemy, and so immediately upon hearing the news, Jackie said, “I’m not playing for the Giants.”  Wow!  What Jackie was saying to Branch Ricky and all of MLB, was that all his career the Giants were his rival, the two teams couldn’t stand each other, so just because he was traded does not mean that he can fake it, it does not mean that Mr. Rickey’s power or the money are going to suddenly change his way of thinking and be the deciding factor.  No, neither Branch Rickey, nor power, nor money, nor MLB baseball was going to decide the next move, only Jackie Robinson would be making that decision.

 

This is a man of integrity, not double face, not saying one thing and living another, not a charlatan.  Instead of compromising the values he had lived with and following the “party line,” he retired, yes, he retired.  Nobody was doing that, nobody was saying that, everybody who got traded went to their new team, some wining and moping, but they went.  Jackie’s refusal to go, shows us why he was chosen by Branch Rickey, to break the “color barrier,” and also why he was able to withstand all the evil perpetrated upon him, namely, this is a man with biblical portions of courage, patience, and integrity, this is a man of uncommon character, this is a man who knew exactly who he was, and nothing, not fame or money or hate, was allowed to compromise him as a person.

 

All these, and more, are the characteristics/traits/essentials, needed by those who want to follow Jesus as a disciple. Before entering into this part of the reflection, bringing up the Los Angeles Dodger calls to mind Bryan Stow, the San Francisco Giant fan who attended this years Dodger home opener and was ruthlessly beaten into a coma by some Dodger fans, just for being a fan of the Giants.  You see, the rivalry/hatred between the two teams never ended, even when they both teams moved to California. Please keep Brian and his family in your prayers, he remains in critical condition.  Please also pray for an end to senseless hatred/violence in all parts of our society, without a doubt more metanoia means less violence, I am a witness.

 

As I have been sharing with you, before I came to know the person of Jesus Christ, before metanoia and the surrender of my life to Jesus, I walked in my own personal vineyard, and not in my Father's vineyard.   A working definition of what I mean when I say “Walking in the Father’s vineyard” would be what a person’s transformed heart and mind looks like, after metanoia, it is disciples daily walk, with Jesus, now in the power of the Holy Spirit, accomplishing Jesus’ plan and purpose for and in their life, JFJA, again, a walk that is only possible with the Holy Spirit.

 

As the Sowers know, I always like to teach the most important things first, so let me be clear, we cannot be a disciple of Jesus Christ, without a life in the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is EVERYTHING.  “Whoever does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.”  Romans 8:9; John 7:39.  If we do not belong to him, there is no discipleship, no knowledge of his will, no entering his Kingdom.  If faith is never accepted personally, if there is no metanoia, then there is a very good chance that we are walking in our own vineyards, our Gospel becomes a false Gospel: the Gospel of Joe, or Michael, or Susan, and not the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

 

There are grave consequences to a person’s spiritual life when they choose to live just for them selves, walk in their own vineyard, and live their own Gospel.  For example, because of selfishness, I walked with the enemy’s spirit, and so I could never authentically follow Jesus, I never heard his voice, only mine.  Yes, Jesus' voice was always overpowered by another voice, mine.  It went like this: my vineyard, my choices, my voice.  For others it may be or have been, the voice of addiction, the voice of anger, the voice of revenge, the voice of jealousy, the voice of sex.  Hearing and following any other voice than the voice of Jesus, will lead us to a life without the Holy Spirit.

 

This type of life, lived for the "self," is seldom gifted with spiritual insight and wisdom because not only does that life not seek God's wisdom but also because there is simply no place for his wisdom to go, there is no “dwelling place” for the Holy Spirit because our human mind, soul, and spirit, are so filled with the self, or other gifts of the enemy, that here is no room for anything else, including God.  However, because of our Baptism and receiving of the Sacraments, where Jesus is present and calling us to himself, to a life in the Holy Spirit, every once in awhile, a small glimmer of hope shines through, a kernel of divine wisdom is received and understood.

 

There is one really important and critical step to seeking and knowing God, namely we have to begin to know who we really are so we can get to where we need to be.  Here is what happened: before I came to know, love, and serve Jesus, I dated a young lady off and on for about eight years.  This was not a holy union, our relationship was based on sex and having someone to hang out with.  Even so, after spending years with a person, a person tends to think they really know who the other persons is, what makes them tick, what they think, how they will act in every circumstance, and so one day, when we were talking about breaking up for like the tenth time, she says to me, "No one will ever love you like I love you because I know who you are."

 

This happened so many years ago, but I remember it like yesterday, because in one moment of grace, in a life that was lived without grace, one moment where the Spirit was able to penetrate all that was foolish and selfish, one moment of clarity in a life of darkness, I spontaneously responded, "How can you know who I am when I don't even know who I am?"  That is a breakthrough.  That was an opening for the Holy Spirit to enter because that statement was true.

 

You see, God's love penetrated the lie I was living.  I kept saying I was happy, everything is good with the money, the vacations, the clothes, the cars, the house, the nightclubs, the ladies, but my spirit was shouting no, get me out of here, I want to be released from this life, my spirit knew, and was proclaiming to me that the person I was, is not the person I wanted to be, and for sure not the person Jesus created me to be, I just did not know how to change that reality, sin kept me in the dark, sin had me trapped, sin had me in chains, in a prison I could not escape because I never knew I was incarcerated, but my spirit did.

Naming the truth, naming that the selfish and pride filled person I was is not really who I am, became and opening for the Holy Spirit to speak to my heart and begin to lead me to someone who could tell me who I was and help me become that person, and of course this lead me to the divine person of Jesus Christ. Today, as you walk in the vineyard, make sure you know who you really are.

 

A disciple is very honest with who they are, so begin to know your spiritual and emotional strengths and weaknesses.  Be aware of what can take you past anger and into rage and hate and also what gives you great joy and peace of mind and heart.  Be aware of what makes you lustful, to the point that you may choose to bring infidelity into your marriage covenant or fornication to your relationships.  Be aware of your tendencies towards love and towards sin.

 

For example, a friend of mine shared with me how he overcame an attraction/addiction to porn that was ruining his spiritual life.   He began by praying for spiritual guidance and one evening it came.  He recognized that the only time he ever watched porn was late at night, in the privacy of his own home.  The solution was easy but a huge sacrifice to anyone who lives on the internet, he took the computer out of his house, so every night, when he was at home he was “off line,” he did not have access to porn, so he could not go there, that was brilliant, and Spirit led.

 

This is actually a great blessing in so many ways, as we as a society are reading less and “on line” more.  Yes, it was hard to only use the computer at work, but this is the type of courage and integrity a disciple shows, these are the types of sacrifices a disciple chooses to make, in order to authentically know and serve Jesus.  If we want to stop sinning in a certain way, and Jesus in the power of the Spirit gives us the solution, we have to go there, we have to break that attraction to sin that separates us from Jesus.

 

The Church calls our human tendency toward sin, "concupiscence."  Why do we tend towards sin?  Much of this can be tied to Adam and Eve and the fall of man into sin and the enemies constant attacks, however I believe we often sin out of sheer  laziness and selfishness and sin is usually the easiest way out (at least initially!!)

 

For example, it is often easier to tell a lie than to face up to the truth and the responsibilities and consequences of truth, it is easier to hold on to hate, revenge, and spite, rather than forgive, it is really easy to allow our lustful imaginations and temptations to wander and come to fruition in acts of adultery, fornication, and masturbation, rather than stop the bleeding by not clicking that favorite porn site, or watching that sexually explicit movie, or having the courage to say to our friends, I don’t drink alcohol, or I don’t smoke weed, I don’t sleep around.  These are hard choices to make but they are the choices that must be made if a person wants to break the cycle of sin and be rescued and released from the power of satan’s control over their daily lives.

 

Disciples know who they are, they know what makes them crazy and weak and vulnerable to sin, and what makes and keeps them spiritually strong and courageous.  Identify it, name it, and Jesus will give you the wisdom, courage, and power to overcome it.  Today, you are called to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.  He has renewed your mind and given you a new heart and spirit, his new heart of love and mercy, his Spirit of Pentecost.  Yes, Jesus has breathed the love of the Holy Spirit upon you and has called you to follow him in the manner that he has chosen for you, as his disciple.  Let’s now focus on these two questions: “If we are not a disciple of Jesus, how to we become one?  If we are a disciple of Jesus, how can we be a better one?”

 

Breaking open the Gospel of Mark, we will see what the Word teaches about discipleship, but first, let’s take a historical look at discipleship in first century Palestine, the time in which Jesus lived.  In the bible, Jesus has been described in many different ways: as a prophet, a priest, a king, a rabbi/teacher.  Priests did not have disciples, one is born into the priesthood; prophets did not have disciples, God chooses his prophets; kings did not have disciples, God or the people chose the king, Rabbis however did have disciples.

 

Jesus lived in a period in which Rabbis were important and powerful members of Jewish faith and culture and this had a profound influence on Jesus’ teaching, ministry, and also those of his own disciples.  A Rabbi is an expert/teacher of the Mosaic Law, a man who studied, taught, and interpreted the Law.  This is a foundationally important point because the Jewish faith believed that a person is saved in the manner by which they were obedient to the Law and followed its commands, and always remember that your Savior Jesus Christ was born, raised, and crucified as a Jewish man.

 

So the Rabbi were literally teaching issues of life and death, how to be saved, through the Law and also their particular interpretation of the Law, what it meant, and how it was to be followed.  If a person in Israel wanted to learn the Law, they had to do the following: be male, find a teacher willing to take them, and on most occasions, pay tuition.  Most, because certain Rabbi, began to teach even those who were poor and unable to pay.  This is where things get interesting.  Just like today, where one bible verse, can be and often is interpreted many different ways, depending upon the life experience and denomination of interpreter, so the same with the Rabbi, namely, same Law, different interpretations, and each Rabbi represented a link to a tradition of interpretation, a school or House as it is called.

 

When Jesus walked the streets of Jerusalem, there were seven major rabbinic schools; the two most prominent and acclaimed were the House of Hillel and the House of Shammai.  In general the House Shammai was known for their literal interpretation of the Law, while the House of Hillel sought the underlying purpose of the Law.  For example, in Acts of the Apostles, chapter five, a Rabbi named Gamaliel, counseled the Sanhedrin that if the Apostles were led by God, then no threats, beating, or imprisonments could stop them, "If it comes from God, you will not be able to destroy them, you may even find yourself fighting against God."  This was very wise counsel from a very wise man who was also the Rabbi St. Paul studied under, Acts 22:3 and the grandson of the great Rabbi Hillel. Joseph A. Fitzmyer, The Anchor Bible Acts of the Apostles, p.339.

So the House of Shammai and the House of Hillel disagreed, often quite forcefully, on various biblical interpretations of the Law, in fact and are three hundred and sixteen recorded differences between these two schools, many of which, their disciples brought to Jesus for clarification, such as, "Who is my neighbor?"  The House of Hillel said only the Jewish man was their neighbor, whereas the House of Shammai taught everyone is your neighbor, in the parable of the  “Good Samaritan,” Jesus sided with the House of Shammai. Luke 10:25-37.

 

They also disagreed on the question of divorce, with Hillel teaching that the Law grants a man a divorce for any serious complaint against his wife, and Shammai teaching that a divorce can only be granted to the man in cases of adultery, when the Pharisees asked Jesus about this question, he responded, "I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) and marries another, commits adultery."  Matthew 19:9.

 

As you can see, the manner in which Jesus answered in respect to what each House taught, would have a profound effect on whether Jesus was seen as a “blasphemer,” or a “prophet.” If you have the time, Google the House of Shammai and the House of Hillel and study other disagreements in their interpretations of the Law, you will be amazed at how many of these found their way into Jesus' dialogue with the Pharisees, Sadducees, and scribes.

 

In the bible, the Gospel of John 1:38, says when John the Baptist identifies Jesus as the Lamb of God, two of John’s disciples, turn to Jesus and say, “Rabbi (which is translated Teacher) where are you staying.”   This reveals, that for many in Israel, including his own disciples, Jesus was thought of as a teacher and therefore referred to as a Rabbi, for example, Peter, at the transfiguration of Jesus, calls him Rabbi.  Mark 9:5.  Also Judas Iscariot, the Apostle/disciple, on the day of betrayal said, "Hail Rabbi, and then he kissed him."  Matthew 26:49.

 

Jesus did incorporate the Rabbinic style into his ministry, with a few important differences:  Jesus taught everyone, sinners, men, women, children, the rich, the poor, it did not matter to Jesus, everyone is invited to the House of Jesus.  Secondly, instead of the disciples seeking him, as other disciples sought out their Rabbi,  Jesus does the opposite, he seeks out his disciples.  This is big.  This is important.  Jesus is always seeking to share with us his mercy, love, forgiveness, and salvation.

 

Even when you were away from Jesus, Jesus was seeking you and if for some misguided reason, you are away from Jesus now, or you go away again, Jesus will be looking you up, again and again and again, this is what Love does.  But the one intrinsic and beautiful difference between Jesus and literally every other Rabbi is this:  all other Rabbis taught their disciples about the Law and how they interpreted the Law and how to live according to the Law in order that they might be saved, whereas Jesus taught his disciples about HIMSELF. See Jesus of Nazareth I, p. 104-105 and p. 268, where the Pope Benedict teaches his Church, “The Law has become a person.”  Amen to the Word made flesh.

 

Why did Jesus teach his disciples, about himself?  Because Jesus knew, as you and I know today, that there is only one way in which we are saved, and that is through faith in HIM, faith in Jesus Christ, our one and only means of salvation, and this is why Jesus said, "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the prophets.  I have not come to abolish but to fulfill."  Matthew 5:17.

 

Amen to the Blood of the Father's Lamb, salvation in the person of Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the Father's Law and plan.  The Rabbi taught the Law, Jesus is the Law, the Rabbi taught salvation, Jesus is salvation, and that is why he kept teaching his disciples about himself, as the Resurrected Jesus Christ reveals to his disciples, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled.”  Luke 24:44

 

With this background, we ask ourselves the question, "What does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus Christ?"  “How can I be a better one?” Let's go to the Word.  Disciple is the English translation of the Greek word mathetes, which means: a pupil, a student, someone who learns, not from themselves, no, a mathetes is a person who is willing to sacrifice everything: family, friends, time, money, everything, to learn from another, a master teacher.

 

No mathetes is self taught, there are no "independent" studies, they must first learn from a teacher, to begin a life of wisdom.  Christians are mathetes of Jesus Christ, we learn from Jesus, we are taught by Jesus, now as we know, in the power of the Holy Spirit. Our goal is our citizenship in heaven, Philippians 3:20, living the life Jesus has planned and purposed for us, a life in the Spirit, manifesting to the world, in our daily lives, the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, kindness, by being his mathetes. Amen to the Blood and being a mathetes.

 

Jesus himself reveals that it is essential for all mathetes to be taught by him alone, because he and only he is God and that everyone whom he teaches has been drawn to him by the Father as the Word reveals, in the Gospel of John, when Jesus quotes the prophet Isaiah, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him, and I will raise him up on the last day.  It is written in the prophets: ‘They shall all be taught by God.’  John 6, 44-45.  Jesus is God. Another way in which Jesus speaks in the bible of being taught by him is when he says to his mathetes, “follow me.”  As we follow, we learn the right things and unlearn the wrong ones.

 

Jesus makes following him, intrinsic to knowing what is going to be required by all who wish to be his mathetes,  “He summoned the crowd with his mathetes and said to them, ‘Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.”  Mark 8:34.  If you follow Jesus, you will be obedient to his Word, you will learn to forgive and love and he does, you will be taught how to mature in spirit and develop the gifts which he has loving bestowed upon you, and know this for certain, when you follow Jesus Christ, there is one and only one place he will lead you, and that is to his kingdom.

 

Following Jesus is what we do when we finally recognize that trying to do things our way has failed, that serving and satisfying ourselves is an endless pit of confusion, excess, lies, ego, and disappointment.  Yes, following Jesus means we have attained a victory over the “self,” and we have a new awareness that we need a Shepherd, a Savior, a Lord, we need guidance, we need a Way, a plan, a purpose in life and the person we choose to follow will bring all of that to fruition, the Divine Person, Jesus Christ.

 

Always be sure you are following Jesus and not an imposter, a false prophet, a wolf in sheep’s clothing, for there are grave dangers if we chose to follow a person and not the Christ.  For example, in 1978, 1,000 poor souls believed that Jim Jones was a prophet sent by Jesus to lead them to heaven.   They were his (Jones’) disciples, they heard and believed his words and so they followed him to Guyana and when the prophet told them that the end of the world was at hand and they could all be together in eternity, they believed him and followed his command to commit suicide.

 

Because they were his disciples and not disciples of Jesus Christ, they were duped into believing a lie, as it often does for those who follow a person and not the Word made Flesh, Jesus Christ, and in the power of the Holy Spirit, his Church on earth, a lie became their truth, they took their own lives, which any mathetes of Jesus knows, through the 2,000 year history of the teaching of his Church, is against Jesus’ command of life.

 

You see the sad truth is Jim Jones, like so many others today, (including the pastor who predicted that May 21 2001 would be the end of the world, as you read this that day HAS PASSED) was a charlatan, a faker, a phony, a false prophet, and his prophesies were all lies, those disciples heard the wrong voice, and this is our next understanding of what it means to be a mathetes of Jesus Christ, we must hear and follow his voice, Jesus’ voice, and no other, and again, no Holy Spirit, no hearing the right voice.

 

In learning what it means to be a mathetes of Jesus Christ, we are going to focus on the Gospel of Mark, but knowing and understanding, what John the Evangelist also reveals is of utmost importance as Jesus identifies himself as the good shepherd, "The sheep hear his voice, as he calls his own sheep by name leads them out.  When he has driven out all his own, he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they recognize his voice."  John 10:3-4.  Amen to the Blood.  Amen to being a sheep!!

 

Notice there is a call, they hear his voice, they recognize that voice, it is a voice that goes ahead of them, they are never in the lead, this the voice of Jesus Christ, the voice that protects and guides them, a voice that leads them to greener pastures of mercy, courage, patience, fidelity, forgiveness, and love, the only voice of salvation, and so they follow that voice and no other.

 

The voice of God is real, we can hear God’s voice in many ways: Exodus 19:5; Numbers 8:89; Psalm 29; 1 Samuel chapter 3;  and literally everyone who ever heard Jesus speak, was listening to the voice of God. The key to hearing God’s voice is that we must want to hear it and secondly we must be listening with an open and contrite heart. Those who hear and follow are his mathetes, you and I, and billions and billions of others throughout the centuries.

Yes, you want to be a sheep, you want to humbly hear and follow the voice of your Teacher, your Savior, the sheep are those who walk in the Father’s vineyard on earth and at death enter the kingdom of God, yes, it is true, read Matthew 25, about the sheep and goats, the sheep receive eternal life and the goats receive eternal damnation, so be a sheep, recognize the voice of Jesus in this world and follow that voice and only that voice.

 

When those poor souls heard the voice of Jim Jones, they thought he was speaking in the name of Jesus Christ, and so they followed him, but they were wrong, that was Jim Jones voice they were following, a human voice.  Always be careful when you hear someone say, "Jesus spoke to me last night and this is what he said," more often than not, they were just talking to themselves.

 

Let us continue to direct our hearts and minds to the Word, be attentive to the Word, and place ourselves in the Word, because as you know, the Word is eternal, for all people, at all times, and so when Jesus was teaching his mathetes, two thousand years ago, in first century Palestine, he was also teaching you and I as believers in salvation through metanoia and faith in his Blood and Resurrection.  In the Gospel of Mark, the word mathetes first appears in Mark 2:15, "While he was at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners sat with Jesus and his mathetes, for there were many who followed him."

 

Why does the word mathetes just sort of appear in Mark's gospel like we would know who they were and that they followed Jesus?  Because the metanoia, the mathetes transformation of heart and mind, their call to follow him, happened earlier in the Gospel.   Remember the outcome of your metanoia is that for the rest of your life you walk in the Father’s vineyard, accomplishing God’s plan and purpose for your life, you follow Jesus Christ, JFJA, as proclaimed by St. Paul, “I have been crucified with Christ, yet I live, no longer I, but Christ who lives in me.”  Galatians 2:19-20, who is leading you to eternal life, the Father’s command.  John 12:50

 

Please note that in the Gospel of Mark, right after Jesus commands the world to metanoia and to believe in his Gospel, he goes out looking for people who are willing to do just that.  Also we remember one of the differences between the rabbis in first century Palestine and Jesus, namely, rabbi did not go looking for their mathetes, the mathetes came looking for them, and also that Jesus' mathetes are never limited by sex, wealth, power, influence, OR SIN, no Jesus' call of discipleship goes out to the entire human population, equally to the rich and the poor, men, women, and children.

 

Here is his call to them, and as Jesus in this Word called his mathetes, if for some reason you have not heard Jesus' voice and call, ask Jesus right now to breath upon you the Holy Spirit of Pentecost, ask Jesus right now, as you read these words to breath into your heart, his mercy, forgiveness, and love, so that possibly for the first time in your life, you can hear his voice, a voice you have never heard before.  You see, Jesus has been calling, Jesus has never ever abandoned or not listened to you, he loves you, he died so you can be free of your fear and guilt and suffering, open your heart, he calls you now, "As he passed by the sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brothers, casting their nets into the sea; they were fishermen.  Jesus said to them, "Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men."  Mark 1:16-17.

 

That's the call.  That is his voice, the voice of mercy and peace, the voice of forgiveness and love, the voice of salvation.  Answer the call.  Heed his voice.  There is peace of heart and mind awaiting all those who answer and follow him.  "Then they left their nets and followed him."  Amen, they are now with Jesus, where ever Jesus is, they will be, they are now walking in the Father’s vineyard and glorifying the Father by following his Son, “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my mathetes.  John 15:8.  This is big, this is important, being a mathetes of Jesus, glorifies the Father.   They had a change of heart and mind and left the security of their jobs and family and friends and became his mathetes, they followed Jesus, and in doing so glorify the Father.

 

"He walked along a little further and saw James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John.  They too were in a boat mending their nets.  Then he called them.  So they left their father Zebedee in the boat along with the hired men and followed him."  Mark 1: 19-20.  Amen to the Blood of the Father's Lamb Jesus Christ.  Notice, James and John hear the right voice, the voice of salvation, for the first time in their lived they heard the call, left their father in the boat, now Jesus is walking ahead of them, and they follow him, and only him.

 

All their lives they have been following their father, the Law, the Pharisees, the culture, their friends, their own voice, today they leave everything behind and follow Jesus.  This is what a mathetes does.  This is exactly what you are in for.  Tough sacrifices, challenges to everything you were taught about what is important in life: power, money, pleasure, success.  This is not for the weak of heart or the stingy.  This not for the fearful or the timid, no, the call to be a mathetes of Jesus Christ is a call to everything that is courageous and bold and selfless within you, the gifts Jackie Robinson received and practiced: courage, patience, integrity.

 

Answer the call in the manner the first mathetes did, they changed their minds and hearts about what was important in life, and their answer to what was truly important in life was "JESUS."  So they began to leave everything behind to follow just him and learn from him, and only him.  This is important.  You and I are on the exact same journey and we need to always be aware that as we empty ourselves of the things and sins that have bound and trapped and attracted us, there will be new temptations, new possessions, new evil spirits that will attempt to attach themselves to us, so as to make us stop following Jesus.

 

This is a daily battle, no matter how righteous, sanctified, consecrated, and anointed you are, temptation will always be present in your life.  Yes, every single day, something from the world will try to attach itself to you and take you away from Jesus' presence and plan for you.    Being constantly aware and alert of this truth allows us to follow Jesus in the manner of his choosing, which means being obedient to his Word, all of his Word, not just the verses that fit our life style and ways of thinking, we must always be alert and aware that there are evil spirits in the world that want to cause a division between ourselves and Jesus, between ourselves and our family, “For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens.”  Ephesians 6:12.

 

How do we stay away from the attractions of the world that attempt to take us away from Jesus: the flesh, possessions, and earthly power?  We absolutely have to stay attached to Jesus, like a branch is to a vine. Wherever Jesus is, that is where we have to be, because without him we are literally defenseless, we are literally powerless against the enemy, “I am the vine, you are the branches.  Whoever remains in me and I in him, will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.”  John 15:5

 

We see this truth lived out in the mathetes life as Jesus dines with Levi the tax collector, whom he has called to follow him, "Some scribes who were Pharisees saw that he (Jesus) was eating with tax collectors and sinners and said to his mathetes, "Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?"  Mark 2:16   Notice that the Pharisees go to the mathetes first with their questions, Jesus, overhearing the question answers for them.  They are called mathetes because they are learning from and believing in Jesus, they have followed Jesus to Levi's house, where Jesus is, they need to be, if they stop following Jesus, they will stop learning from him, believing in him, and they will begin to succumb to selfishness and temptation, they will go back to their old way of life, and so will you and I.

 

Know this, breath this, live this, as a mathetes, you always want to be where Jesus is: the depressed, the rejected and abandoned, the prisons, the homeless, the children, the hungry, the family, we stay on the Vine and in the Spirit, through a life of prayer, Word, Sacrament, and service, (PWSS) yes, seek Jesus in the weak and the vulnerable, and you will never leave his side; fighting abortion, poverty, and prejudice keeps you with Jesus, on the vine.

 

At Levi's house we can also learn another good lesson about being a mathetes of Jesus Christ, namely that as mathetes, we have a responsibility, we are accountable, to know this person we follow, to know his Gospel and commands, yes we must know everything we can about Jesus, because the Word teaches us that we must share our knowledge of our Savior with others.

 

Yes, because we follow Jesus, just like the disciples were, we will be asked questions about Jesus and we must be able to answer them.  Today, you and I must be able to answer simple questions about our faith: "Why do you believe in a God you cannot see?  Why do you make the sign of the cross?  Why do you baptize your babies?  Why do you worship in a faith that believes in idols?  (A lie of course but we must know how to reveal the Truth)  Why do people suffer even if they are Christian, isn't the whole point to relieve your suffering?"

 

All these will be answered in your walk in the vineyard, however, begin to study your faith, buy a catechism, read the Word, join a bible study, buy good books by anointed authors such as Scott Hahn and Fr. Raymond E. Brown.  Testimony and accountability, being able to answer questions about Jesus and your faith, is a part of what it means to be his mathetes, and remember you are not accountable to me, or your mom, or your pastor, no, you are accountable to Jesus, “Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.”  Luke 9:26.  Ouch!!   The mathetes walk in the vineyard continues.  Jesus teaches them and they learn about fasting and the Sabbath.

 

In chapter three of Mark’s Gospel, Jesus begins to strengthen the mathetes faith through a revelation of miracles and mercy, thus revealing the glory and power that belongs to him and only him, as God and Savior: Jesus cures a man with a withered hand, Jesus cures the sick both physically and spiritually, even the unclean spirits testified to him as Messiah, "He had cured many, and as a result, those who had diseases were pressing upon him.  And whenever unclean spirits saw him they would fall down before him and shout, "You are the Son of God."  Mark 3:11   This had to be an absolutely shocking and eye opening experience for the mathetes, imagine watching Jesus heal the blind and mute and lepers,  and then attack the enemy by destroying all demons of fear hate, lust, and then watching as the demons bow down to Jesus and proclaimed his divinity.

 

Shocking.  Amazing.  Life changing.  So much to learn.  Such a different way of life than collecting taxes or getting up early every morning to go and catch some fish.  Expect this in your walk in the Father’s vineyard.  Yes, expect to be shocked and amazed at the mercy and power of Jesus, as he uses you as an instrument of healing, mercy, and love.  Through you, Jesus will bring friends, family members, and strangers out of a lifetime of addictions to alcohol, drugs, and violence.

 

Through you, Jesus will comfort friends, family members, and strangers who are depressed, lonely, self-destructing, addicted, and change their lives in a way neither you or they could have imagined, so be aware, be alert, be prepared, again, do not put human thoughts and limitations on the power of the Holy Spirit within you.  Before metanoia, before surrendering your life to Jesus, before a new life in the Holy Spirit, you were not changing anyone’s life, no one was seeking your help, your advice on personal matters, matters of faith, but today they are.

 

Just ask one of our new Sowers, Amelia Torres, how many people are coming to her with questions, seeking spiritual advice and encouragement.  They come to Amelia now because they have seen a change in her life, they have seen a new Spirit and a new heart in her smile, words, and walk.  They have a new respect for her and so they seek her out, not by accident, but because as an instrument of salvation, the Holy Spirit is now attracting others to her, so that through her testimony of life, Jesus, can bring healing, peace, encouragement, love, forgiveness, and salvation to others.  Yes, through a mathetes witness and life, God plans to bring countless others to himself, in metanoia and faith.  This is real, if you have had a metanoia, Amelia’s experience is your experience, share it with others, that’s how the Spirit moves and changes the world.

 

Yes, just as the Apostles did, your spirit, led by the Holy Spirit, will experience great awe and joy as peoples lives change through your intercession: families united and peaceful after years of suffering and abuse because a father was addicted to drugs or alcohol, and through your love and witness, he surrendered his life to Jesus and started a new life for himself and his family.  This and other miracles of rescue are happening right now all over the world, through the power of Jesus Christ.  Know this, love this, seek this.

 

The next revelation of the Word is that Jesus gives special attention to his mathetes, yes, Jesus, through his Word and also now his Church will teach you and I in a unique and personal way, "Without parables he did not speak to them, but to his own mathetes he explained everything in private."  Mark 4:34

 

My personal word, my personal testimony to you is this: get into the Word: yes, pray, read, and study the bible, the bible contains truth about your life and experiences, your strengths and weakness, your joys and sorrows, that Jesus wants to reveal and share with you personally.  Again, this is a personal witness to you about the Word, it is what works for me, and therefore not universally applicable, but it seems to me that many Catholics have found this to be true in that so many now worship in other Christian denominations because they were seeking to know Jesus in the bible, in the Word.  Remaining in his Word, marks us as mathetes, as Jesus reveals, “If you remain in my word, you will truly be my mathetes, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  John 8:31

 

When I go worship Jesus on Sundays I get profound revelation from listening to the Word and the from the pastor’s homily.  However, I have found that not everything Jesus wants to share with me is revealed in my time of worship but also is revealed when I personally open up the bible and spend time in prayer, reading, and study of the Word, and in serving him.

 

When I personally open up the Word, I receive new and exciting revelations about choices and decisions I have made or need to make, about how to deal with leadership and vision issues in ministry, about relationships, about problems that never cease to arise, about spiritual gifts, about serving Jesus in new ways, and much, much more.  Again, my suggestion is to read, pray, and study the Word, and if you really want to make me happy, and at the same time get a few strange looks from your fellow parishioners, starts taking a bible with you to Mass on Sundays!!

 

 

In chapter six of the Gospel of Mark, we find the miracle of Jesus feeding the 5,000 with five loaves and two fish.  In this miracle, which is the only miracle found in all four Gospels, we find Jesus teaching his mathetes what their core being will look like, what will be tattooed on their hearts: SERVANT. The crowd has gathered, night is falling, there are thousands there to listen to Jesus teach and no food in sight, the mathetes human wisdom and concerns are revealed, "By now it was already late and his mathetes approached him and said, "This is a deserted place and it is already very late. Dismiss them so that they can go to the surrounding farms and villages and buy themselves something to eat."  Mark 6:36

 

For me, this pericope is tinged with the mathetes personal selfishness, lack of faith, and a little humor on Jesus’ part, because what the mathetes were really saying is this, "Jesus let's just send all these nice people home, it's been a great weekend, really Jesus, it could not have been better, darn near perfect, you cured so many people and we got tons of new mathetes and enough money to last us a couple of weeks, but now it's getting late, we are all tired, you must be tired by now too Jesus, so let's just send everybody home, and we can just chill for awhile and not have to listen to them whine and complain that they are hungry and have nothing to eat."

 

Wonder what Jesus was thinking when they said that?  No need to wonder, Jesus is God, God's thoughts are revealed in his Word, "He said to them in reply, "Give them something to eat yourself."  Mark 6:37.   Ha!  Do it yourself, you my mathetes, you give them something to eat, and you know what, if they would have had the faith of a mustard seed, they could have fulfilled his command, yes, they had the power as mathetes to take those five loaves and two fish and feed the five thousand themselves.

 

The Gospel of Luke reveals that the disciples knew they had divine power from Jesus, because when Jesus is disrespected by the Samaritans, the Zebedee brothers, James and John, the same brothers who asked Jesus to sit at his right and left in his kingdom, say to Jesus, “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?  Luke 9:54.  The Word says “Jesus turned and rebuked them.”

 

What is Jesus is revealing to his mathetes, to us?  That we are not here to send people away, or to punish them, we are not their judge or master, Jesus is, we are called to encourage, minister to, teach, love, be of benefit, and call sinners to salvation, metanoia and faith in Jesus Christ. Discipleship is reflected in Jesus command, “Give them something to eat yourself,” which teaches: ‘you care for them, you tend to their needs, you teach, guide, and love them, spend some of your money on them, these are the reasons I have bestowed upon you my power and authority.

Right now, you want to send them home so you don’t have to care for or worry about them anymore, so that you don’t have to spend anymore money on them,’ “Are we to buy two hundred days’ wages of food and give them something to eat?”   You are being selfish and that is not what my mathetes do, “You give them something to eat.”

 

What does this Word "Give them something to eat yourselves," mean for you and I?  It means this: right now, as you read this, there is a single mom, caring for two young children on her own, minimum wage job, barely getting by, and five months pregnant.  She is being told by planned parenthood that the most merciful choice she can make is to kill her child in the womb because she will never have the time, finances, or love to give to that child and the child will grow up poor and unloved.

 

She is being told and sold, that if she kills her child even at five months old, her child will not know or feel a thing.  She is being told that abortion is a loving and simple procedure and it will be over quickly and she can go on with her normal life with no consequences at all.  When a person or institution like planned parenthood, is guided by the enemy, they will spew and imitate his tactics, the foremost being lies.  John 8:44

 

Jesus wants to tell her that everything she is being told is a lie.  Jesus wants to speak to her and he will as soon as you and I contact her, and let her know that there are many, many alternative choices other than a death sentence for her child.  There is financial assistance available, there are families who would love to adopt her child and raise them in a caring and loving environment and home.  Tell her that her child does feel the saline in their lungs burning them alive or the doctor’s scalpel cutting them apart and that she will have a lifetime of regrets and memories about her choice. Jesus wants to say and teach all these things to her and Jesus will say and do all this, through his mathetes.

 

What this means is that there is a homeless and hungry person walking the streets of LA right now. Jesus is not going to come down from heaven, seek that person out, open up a can of Campbell’s soup or give her/him a sandwich, find out where he or she will spend the night, help in any way possible with counseling, so they can survive another day and begin to turn their life around.  Jesus wants to, yes Jesus right now wants to care for that hungry person, he died to care for that hungry person, and he will personally care for that hungry person, without coming down from heaven, when and only when you and I hear his voice, heed his call to go and serve and minister to that exact individual, and others like them.

 

That's the voice, that's the call, that's following Jesus, this what a servant does, this is what his mathetes do.  It means that there is a great need for clean water in too many parts of the world, tens of thousands of children are dying simply because the water they drink is contaminated.  We keep sending them contraception when what they really need is clean water.  Jesus isn't going to jump in a big rig, with his well drilling tools and start digging new wells to alleviate suffering, and bring cleans drinking water to as  many local villages as possible, he wants to and he will, when his mathetes hear his voice, his call, as millions have, and follow that voice to whichever part of the world, family member, colleague, or stranger,  the voice of Jesus is leading them too,  when his mathetes are willing to sacrifice time, talent, and treasure to help change the lives of those Jesus has called them to serve.

 

It means there is a person right now, in your life, in my life, a friend or a family member who is in desperate need of help, addicted to violence through drugs or alcohol, or alone, vulnerable, depressed, lacking self esteem or direction in life, but they do not know who or where to turn to. Jesus is not going to come down from heaven, put on pair of slacks and a sweater and say to them, "Hey, can I come over and chat, I want to know what's going on in your life, I heard you were under a lot of pressure lately, I heard you were going through a really tough time and I want to see if there is any way I can help with advice, finances, or just some quality time together.”  Jesus wants to bring his wisdom, peace, counsel, and encouragement to that person’s life and he will, through his mathetes.

 

Do you see the picture?  Through the presence of the Holy Spirit that abides in his mathetes, “Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Holy Spirit dwells in you?”

1 Corinthians 3:16.   Jesus is ministering to the world.  Yes, in the power of the Spirit of Pentecost, Jesus himself is doing all this, but know this for certain, if we do not consent and go, it will not get done, and Jesus will hold us accountable.  We profess and confess this truth as Christians in our public confession at Mass, the Confiteor, cleansing ourselves before we hear the Word and receive the Eucharist, “In what I have done, and what I have failed to do.”

 

Jesus says to his mathetes, "You give them something to eat," because he wants them to know that serving others will be the core of who they are and what he expects of them, he wants them to know there will be sacrifices to be made, it will not be easy, the night will be falling, seemingly everybody will be hungry, everybody will need help, money will always be an issue, there will be way too many to serve, five thousand of them and only a few of you, there will be times when they are frustrated, exhausted, uncertain of what to do, with needs seemingly impossible to fulfill, but is Jesus is present in their lives, if they persevere, if they follow, all is possible because, "What is impossible for human beings is possible for God."  Luke 18:27

 

Yes, Jesus is preparing his mathetes for his imminent return back to his Father, our Father.  Jesus knows that all too soon they will have to take over, be in charge, guide, heal, teach, and perform miracles, just like he did and so he is challenging them to make things happen, ‘do it yourself guys, why are you still coming to me for all the big things, you can do this, trust me, have faith in me.’  Take this message to heart.  A mathetes does not pass the job to someone else, no, they hear God’s voice, they follow the call, they have a plan, they execute the plan and find others who are willing to be involved.  Mathetes are doers of the Word, they make the mercy and love of the God's Word come alive in others peoples lives, just like Jesus the Word made flesh did in ours.

 

The next teaching of Jesus to his mathetes is really important for anyone who is just coming back to the faith.  Sometimes we leave or do not practice our faith, because of misconceptions and false teachings in our minds, about our own faith, Jesus’ mathetes had the same problem, Jesus wants to change this.  In chapter seven of the Gospel of Mark, Jesus is giving it to the Pharisees pretty good.  He is chastising them for focusing on the minutia of the Law, they were all about the “small details,” while missing the really important things, “you strain the gnat and swallow the camel,” Matthew 23:24.  They were adding to and twisting the Law, to meet their lifestyle and desires.  The Pharisees were rigid followers of the Law, so rigid that they added to the Mosaic Law, the Law the Father gave to Moses, something known as the Halakhah, which was a separate set of rules and practices which the people were expected to follow, Jesus called these their "human traditions."

 

For example they were all about washing their hands, and kettles, and cups, as part of a purification rite, which helped to ensure that they were walking in the righteousness of the Law.  Jesus was having none of it.  He did not want to change the Law but he sure as heck wasn't going to follow some foolish man made rituals that had nothing to do with what his Father revealed to Israel in the true Law, the Law of Moses.  So because Jesus and his mathetes did not follow the specific purification rite of washing their hands before a meal, the Pharisees as usual, bagged on them, and asked this question to Jesus, "Why do your mathetes not follow the tradition of the elders but instead eat a meal with unwashed hands?"   Mark 7:5.  Tradition of the Elders means the man made law, the Halakhah.

 

This question really got under Jesus’ skin and he just lays them out.  No holding back.  Do your remember when Allen Iverson, who at the time was playing for the Philadelphia 76ers, was asked about missing some of the teams practices, and he responded by saying, "PRACTICE, we’re talking about practice," meaning in his mind it was such a foolish question and had nothing to do with the reality of his ability to compete on a daily basis and help the team win.  I can see Jesus saying the same things, "Tradition of the elders, are you serious?  Tradition of the elders, that’s not going to change anything, that's not going to cleanse my mathetes hearts, or make them righteous, pure, and servants, I'll be the one doing all that."

 

Then Jesus quoted Isaiah the prophet to them, saying that they honor God with their lips and not their hearts.  Ouch.  Don't ever go there. That is why integrity is so important.  Integrity means we do not live a double life, we do not have “dos caras,” it means we do not preach one thing an live another, it means what we do in secret are the same things we do in public.  Jesus’ point is this, the Pharisees believed and taught that anyone who did not follow “tradition of the elders,” would become contaminated, ritually impure, and Jesus said nonsense, "Nothing that enters one from the outside can defile that person; but the things that come from within are what defile."  Mark 7:15.  The meaning is obvious to you and I but not to the Pharisees or at this time to his mathetes because all their lives the Pharisees had pounded this purification belief into their minds and lives, so his own mathetes asked Jesus what he meant.

 

It is always a good idea to ask a question if we do not know or understand the answer, especially if the person explaining it to us is God!!  However, because Jesus had been teaching many things to his mathetes, he thought they were a little further along in their studies, in their faith, so he said to them, "Are even you likewise without understanding?  Do you not realize that everything that goes into a person from the outside cannot defile, since it enters not the heart but the stomach and passes out into the latrine.  But what comes out of a person that is what defiles.  From within people, from their hearts, comes evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly.  All these evils come from within and they defile."  Mark 7:17- 23

 

Mathetes, learn from your Teacher, listen to this Word, it's all about our hearts, what is in our hearts, what is on and expressed by our hearts.  Here is the good news, Jesus is in and on your heart today and he wants to clarify everything that the Word and Church teach.  The mathetes, had a lifetime of hearing the Pharisees teach that in order to be pure and follow the Law and be saved, they also must follow the tradition of the elders, so even when Jesus taught them the truth, that no, purity and salvation are from him alone and not from the Law, let alone the tradition of the elders, they couldn't understand what he meant, there was too much baggage in their minds and hearts, too many years of false interpretations.

 

There were too many Sabbaths listening to the Rabbi teaching their own Law, and so their minds were unable to immediately comprehend the truth, even when it was Jesus, their Lord and God explaining and teaching the truth to them.  The Holy Spirit, would change all this. What this means for you and I is that to be a mathetes we need to study the Word and the teaching of our Church, so that we will always be able to discern between what is the authentic teaching of the Magisterium and not just somebody’s personal thoughts.  Study your faith, it is ancient and majestic.

 

Back to the Word, in chapter eight of the Gospel of Mark, we find Jesus' exact and personal explanation of what it means to follow him, in the manner of his choosing, and not our own, as St. Peter so quickly learned.  What led up to Jesus' teaching on discipleship was this, "Along the way he asked his mathetes, "Who do people say that I am?"  Mark 8:27.  Jesus is testing them, he is seeing what they really believe about him, in light of what others believe, because remember, the Word says that Jesus has been giving his mathetes "private" instructions, they should know more about who he is that everyone else, so when they reply, "John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others, one of the prophets," Mark 8:28, Jesus immediately follows up their response with another question.

 

Why another question from Jesus?   Because these are excellent and legitimate answers for anybody who has NOT BEEN FOLLOWING him, however, they are all the wrong answers for  those who have been following him, those whom he has been teaching, those whom have witnessed his miracles and mercy, they should have a better answer, a correct answer, and so now comes their LSAT, the SAT, the test they absolutely must pass or they will not be able to be called his mathetes, Jesus asked them, "But who do you say that I am?"  I want to hear it from you, the ones I personally chose and have been teaching, the ones who saw every miracle, who heard every cry of mercy that I answered, who watched every demon be slain and driven out.

 

Brothers and sister this is a big a very big question.  They have to get it right. Think of the consequences of a wrong answer.  If they do not know who Jesus is, then how are they going to teach others, and spread the correct "good news?"  They can't spread the Gospel about a person who they really know do not know, and neither can we, that would be a disaster, that Gospel would not have lasted a week.

 

Jesus knew this, Jesus is God, he knows these things.  It was time for somebody to name it, it was time for somebody to get it right, it was time for the hidden to be made manifest, in order that Jesus could take the right answer and add more revelation to it.  Guess who got it right?  Yes sir, Peter, good old Peter.  This is not a coincidence, this is God's plan and mission unfolding in his Word, "Peter said to him in reply, "You are the Messiah."  Mark 8:29.   Amen to the Blood of the Father's Lamb.  Peter got it right.  Jesus is the Messiah, which is the Greek word for the Anointed One.  Yes, Jesus is the Anointed One, the Spirit is upon him, he is the One sent by the Father to die for the sins of the world so the Father can gather his family, once again in the kingdom of heaven.  So Peter got it right, kind of!  You see Peter had the word right but the wrong understanding.

 

Remember how the mathetes had to unlearn things about their faith, things that had been driven into their hearts and minds for years, like about the purification rites having an effect on a person’s righteousness, and Jesus saying no, if you are filthy on the inside but clean on the outside, you're a walking dead man, you’re pretty, you smell and look good to people, but you are spiritually dead.

 

Same type of problem existed with the mathetes about what they had been taught about the Messiah.  Peter had been taught that the Messiah was coming to restore Israel to her former glory and power in the world.  Israel was once again, through the Messiah, going to take her place in the world as a nation of wealth and armies, this was a worldly Messiah, a conquering Messiah, a Messiah of restoration not resurrection, a Messiah of wealth and  possessions not Spirit and salvation.

 

Jesus knew what they had been taught and he also knew that their false teaching had to be corrected, and that is why, right after Peter's declaration of faith in Jesus as the Messiah, Jesus, knowing that Peter represented all the mathetes answers, and that they were all wrong, began to teach them about himself, about the truth of who the Messiah really was and why he was sent by the Father into this world, about the plan for the Anointed One, yes, Jesus began to teach them the true meaning of who the Messiah is, what his purpose and Mission were, as the Word reveals, "He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer greatly, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and rise up on the third day."  Mark 8:31

 

Upon hearing this new definition of Messiah, Peter's is like, "What? That's not what I learned from the Pharisees.  Those are not my expectations of who the Messiah is.  God the Son, sent by God the Father to be spit upon, beat, cursed, flogged, crowned with thorns, nailed to a cross, die, and then rise on the third day, I don't think so, no Jesus, that's not what is going to happen to you, that’s not my idea of who you are, no way, that’s not my Messiah."

 

This revelation of the true Messiah, by the Messiah, was so far removed from the victorious, conquering, restoring Israel back to glory Messiah that Peter had grown up with, it made Peter crazy, yes, a moment of temporary insanity came over the man because he began to rebuke his Teacher, his Lord, his Messiah, his Savior.   Yes, he had to be temporarily insane because no mathetes rebukes his teacher, especially if his teacher is God, "Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him."  Ouch.  He takes Jesus aside, like a little kid who needed a scolding, who needs to be set straight and given the right information.

 

Peter, Peter, pumpkin eater, what are you thinking?  That's crazy talk, a student never ever would take their teacher aside and rebuke them. Peter, think of what you are doing, you are taking God aside and saying, "God I really think you got this one wrong."  Well, you know what comes next, one of the harshest rebukes in the bible, yes, Peter, had to be rebuked, chastised, straightened out.  Why?  Because not only was he a mathetes, not only was he an Apostle, but he was chosen by Jesus as the leader of the Apostles, chosen directly by Jesus for this purpose, yes, Jesus knew that’s Peter’s thoughts and beliefs would influence not only all the other Apostles but all future mathetes to come, so he had to understand once and for all who Jesus really is, and why Jesus was sent as the Messiah.

 

Peter had to know without a doubt that Jesus was going to suffer, die, and rise from the dead, because above every other description and understanding of Jesus: Rabbi, Good Shepherd, Teacher, Messiah, Priest, or Prophet, Peter had to know Jesus as Savior, as the one who dies for his sins, rises to new life, fulfills his promise of sending the Holy Spirit, and through faith in him, is invited to live a life in the Holy Spirit and enter the kingdom prepared for him by his Savior.

 

Peter had to get this right, there was no other possible choice or way.  If Peter or anyone else could not understand this truth, that Jesus must suffer and die for his sins and the sins of the world, then when it finally did happen, when Jesus was crucified, their faith would be gone, not only would they flee in fear but they would never believe in his Resurrection, even if he came back from the dead, just like Abraham said to Lazarus, the rich man who had died and asked someone from the dead to go tell his brothers to repent so they would not have to suffer like him, "Then Abraham said, "If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead."  Luke 16:31.

 

So Peter absolutely had to know who Jesus really was as the Suffering Messiah, and that is why Jesus said this to him, after Peter took him aside and rebuked him, "Get behind me Satan, you are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do."  Mark 8:33.  That is as harsh as it gets, comparing Peter, his chosen Apostle, with satan. Those words shook Peter to his knees, they would be devastating to any mathetes let alone the one whom Jesus personally chose to lead his Church. Notice that Jesus tells Peter he has the same problem the Pharisees did about following the wrongs Laws, "In vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines, human precepts."  Mark 7:7.

 

Peter's thoughts about who the Messiah was were flawed in the same way as the Pharisees in that he was not thinking like Jesus, like God, but "like human beings do," meaning Peter's thoughts about Jesus as Messiah went like this: "The sea, the wind, and the demons, all listen to Jesus, people adore him, I'm his right hand man, I’m on top and important, I like being on top and important.  Jesus feeds thousands with little, cures the lepers, the lame, the blind, rebukes the Pharisees, people adore him, I'm his right hand man, I am respected and admired because of him, I really like being respected and admired.”

 

Then comes the new revelation that the true Messiah must suffer and die, and now Peter's former thoughts are scrambled and his new ones are not to his liking:  "Jesus is going to be arrested, beat up, spit on, flogged, and crucified, everyone will hate him, I'm his right hand man, I’m going to be arrested, spit on, flogged, and crucified, that’s not cool.”

 

Do you see the reason for Peter’s anger?  The restoration of Israel by the Messiah to worldly glory was secondary to his personal glory and fear. He wanted to be on top, respected, first seats in the synagogue, thought of as a Rabbi.  He also now feared for his life and feared he had thrown his life away, wasted all his time and money on a Messiah, who in the end, was simply going to be crucified and buried, as we read, “Peter began to say to him in reply, ‘We have given up everything to follow you.  What will there be for us?”  Matthew 19:27; Mark 10:28.   Peter could not understand, all he knew is that he was losing everything, and in a lot of trouble.  All the glory he was expecting to receive as a mathetes has been taken away, and he was going to be persecuted just like Jesus was.  Perfect.  Now if he stays, if he continues to follow Jesus, he will be staying, he will be following, he will be a servant, for all the right reasons.

 

Yes, now if he stays, knowing that there will be true suffering involved, that he in not going to become wealthy or have earthly power but become the servant of the servants, then he will be staying for one ultimate and magnificent reason, namely that he fell in love with the true Messiah, and yes, Peter did fall in love with the person of Jesus Christ.  So did I.  So have you.  Jesus continues to teach his disciples, "Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.  For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the Gospel will save it."  Mark 8:34-35.

 

Mathetes sacrifice, and by sacrifice I do not mean a Lenten sacrifice, a denial of TV, chocolates, double doubles, or a day or two of fasting, not eating meat once a week, no, the denial Jesus speaks of is that which is contrary to everything our society teaches and pounds into our minds on a daily basis, it is the deepest denial any human being can offer as a sacrifice, a denial of the “self,” in order to serve the other.  It is the denial, the rejection of everything in us that wants us to live a life apart from Jesus, live for themselves, mathetes give their lives to Jesus Christ and ask for nothing in exchange, mathetes fall in love with a personal Savior, because how much more personal can it be that having someone love you so much, that they would die for your sins, and send you God the Holy Spirit to dwell in you through faith?

 

This is who you are.  This is what you have signed up for.  Make no mistake about it, a walk in the Father's vineyard is absolutely glorious, filled with joy, laughter, new friends, new adventures, reconciliations, miracles and manifestations of Jesus healing presence in the world beyond our wildest imaginations, and as I have said, I can choose no other walk.  However, for his mathetes, the vineyard is also filled with everything the Word has just reveled to us: hardships, closed doors, new beginnings that are hard to learn, battles with the spirits of hate, violence, and fear, false accusations, liars, hard hearts, fools, contaminations in ministry, disappointments, and on and on.  Expect all these hardships, also expect to deal with and overcome them in a new way, in a way you never could before, in the power of the Holy Spirit.

 

Let us continue in the Word.  In chapter nine of Mark's gospel we find that the mathetes are unable to drive out a mute spirit, although they have done this before, "Teacher, I have brought before you my son possessed with a mute spirit.  Whenever it seizes him, it throws him down; he foams at the mouth, grinds his teeth, and becomes rigid, I asked your mathetes to drive it out, but they were unable to do so."  Mark 9:17-18

 

The mathetes themselves, are wondering why they were unable to drive out this mute spirit when they had already done this sort of things before, and so Jesus explained it to them, "When he entered the house, his mathetes asked him, "Why could we not drive it out?"  He said to them, "This kind can only come out through prayer." Mark 9:28-29

 

What does Jesus mean?  Is Jesus saying his mathetes are not men of prayer? That does not make any sense because we know from the Gospels of Luke and Matthew that the mathetes specifically asked Jesus to teach them to pray, "Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his mathetes."  Matthew 6: 9; Luke 11:1.  No, his mathetes knew how to pray, in this case what was lacking was not prayer, but the content of their prayer and faith.  With all the glory bestowed upon them by the crowds, because of the miracles that were taking place through them, pride and arrogance, easily could have entered into their hearts.

 

Instead of praying in faith, in Jesus, always acknowledging his power and authority at work in them, in the manner in which Jesus taught them, they began to think it was all about them.  They needed to be reminded that it was Jesus' power, not theirs, that was doing the healing and miracles, they needed to be reminded that people are healed and demons are cast out ONLY in and through the power and authority of Jesus.   We see this truth, that all power comes from Jesus, when a woman who was ill for years, simply touched Jesus’ cloak and was healed, “Jesus, aware at once that power had gone out from him, turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who has touched my clothes?”  Mark 5:30.

 

All power and authority is God’s alone, and those God chooses to share them with and  the mathetes needed to be reminded of this and also about what the prayer that Jesus taught them said, namely, all glory, honor, and praise is supposed to go the FATHER, keep nothing for themselves.  "Hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, deliver us from the evil one."

 

Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, in his commentary on Jesus’ High Priestly prayer in the Gospel of John, chapter 17, pastors us on this very subject, “A defining characteristic of the community of the disciples in every age must be their “being sent” by Jesus.  This will always mean for them, too, “my teaching is not mine”; the disciples do not proclaim themselves, but say what they have heard.  They represent Christ, just as Christ represents the Father. They follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit.” Jesus of Nazareth II, p. 98.

 

To remind his mathetes where their authority and power over demons and their ability to heal really resides, Jesus took his power away from them, in order that their eyes could be opened, their hearts could be cleansed of any arrogance or pride, any preaching of “themselves.”  Remember, mathetes are always where Jesus is, if we get away from Jesus, if we start to put ourselves first again, he will do all within his power to bring us back to him, even if he has to take us to the bottom, to the crawl, he will.  We do not do things on our own, we have no power separate from, apart from the Savior,  Jesus does them through us, and whenever we are arrogant and filled with pride and seek to glorify ourselves, we are not where Jesus is, we are back where we were, and we will fail, every single time.

 

After Jesus’ Blood, Death, and Resurrection, Peter and all the mathetes, guided by the Holy Spirit, perfectly understood where their power and authority came from as witnessed by the first miracle by the Church.  In Acts of the Apostles, Peter and John are on their way to the Temple to pray and they encounter a man crippled from birth, begging for alms, and Peter invoking the name of Jesus heals him.  Everyone is amazed, astonished, shocked, and gathering around Peter and John, and Peter says to the crowd, “You Israelites, why are you amazed at this, and why do you look so intently at us as if we had made him walk by our own power?”  Acts 3:12.  Peter then went on to explain to them that all the power came from Jesus and invited them to metanoia and salvation in Jesus’ name.   Amen to the Blood.

 

Notice what Peter and John were intent on doing just before the miracle happened, namely praying in the Temple.  Prayer is a reminder that we, in and of ourselves, do not have the power, that all is a gift from Jesus.  As a mathetes, you must be a person of prayer, there is no other choice, there is no other way, because prayer is the lifeblood of your personal relationship with Jesus, prayer is a constant reminder of JFJA.  Prayer is when we turn our minds and hearts to Jesus, keeping us on and fed by the Vine, on his Mission, living for his purpose.  Pray in your car, at work, on vacations, out to dinner, at home alone, with your spouse, with your family, be a person of prayer.

 

Patty de Anda, our Sower prayer ministry leader, lives by and is a witness to this truth, “There is power in praise.”  Praise is prayer. For example, the Psalms are the prayer of the community and they are filled with God’s praises,  in fact the Psalms close with “Let everything that has breath give praise to the Lord.  Hallelujah.”  Psalm 150:6.  In your daily prayer, follow the Psalmist pattern of prayer in Psalm 105, namely first give thanks and praise to God for your salvation, blessings, and any of the other billion reasons we can think of, then, and only then, if we have any personal petitions and needs do we add them to our prayer.  When our prayer takes this form, it means that we will be thanking and praising God in all circumstances: joys, successes, failures, trials, and sufferings, because all prayer begins with “God I thank You, God I praise You.”

 

All prayer has great, great power as Jesus reveals later in this Gospel after the of the Temple, “Therefore I tell you, all that you ask for in prayer, believe that you will receive it, and it shall be yours.”  Mark 11:24.  That is POWER.  Amen to the Blood of the Father’s Lamb, thank you Jesus for revealing this promise and for sharing your divine power with all those who love and serve you.

 

In John 15 the same promise is revealed.  In John 14, we see that those who believe in Jesus Christ, those who give him all the glory and the honor, those who follow Jesus, those who are obedient to his Word, could have removed this mute spirit, "Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father."  John 14:12.   Wow!!  Mathetes will do greater things than Jesus.  Hard to imagine.

 

What the Word is revealing is not that you and I will be greater than Jesus, that is heresy and the opposite of discipleship, no the Word is revealing that there are miracles within you that Jesus is just waiting to unleash upon the world, powerful miracles and healings, and by staying in prayer, by giving Jesus all the glory and honor, we will watch them unfold.

 

 

Let’s look at the thoughts of one of the all time greatest mathetes on prayer, St. Paul.  “For we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit itself intercedes with inexpressible groaning.”  Romans 8:26.  “Pray at every opportunity in the Spirit.”  Ephesians 6:18.  “I give thanks to my God at every remembrance of you, praying always with joy at every remembrance of you.”  Philippians 1:3-4.  “Pray without ceasing.”  1 Thessalonians 5:17.  Prayer is communion with God.  Communion with God puts us where Jesus is.  Mathetes seek to be where Jesus is.

 

The greatest prayer, for us as Christians, is the Mass, “Every liturgical celebration, because it is an action of Christ the Priest and of his Body, which is the Church, is a sacred action surpassing all others.”  “The liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; it is also the font from which all power flows.”  Vatican II, The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, # 7-10.

 

Jesus continues to teach his mathetes.  "People were bringing children to him that he might touch them, but the mathetes rebuked them.  When Jesus saw this he became indignant and said to them, "Let the children come to me; do not prevent them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.  Amen I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a little child will not enter it."  Mark 10:13-15.

 

The mathetes thought Jesus was too busy to spend time with these children.  Wrong.  Jesus loves children.  Jesus teaches us that we must accept the kingdom of God like little children in order to enter it.  What does that mean?  How does one accept the kingdom of God in a childlike way in order to enter it?   Again, it means we can make no claims to live in his Kingdom for what we have done, through our works.

 

Children are loved without doing “things,” without works, they are totally dependent on another, they cannot survive without the love and care of a parent, Jesus wants us to be like that. He wants us to acknowledge and worship him as our Savior, as mathetes who we are totally dependent on him, for literally everything in our lives.

 

Works, meaning serving others because of our faith in Jesus Christ, they are absolute and essential in the life of a mathetes, we must live in them, as St. Paul teaches, but salvation is from Jesus alone, and not what we do.  This doctrine, as to what Catholics believe about salvation, has been misunderstood and misrepresented by many Christians, and we will need to spend more time explaining this, for now, please read Ephesians 2:8-10; James 2:17; and this from the Church: “All children of the Church, should nevertheless remember that their exalted condition results, not from their own merits, but from the grace of Christ.”  Vatican II, Lumen Gentium, # 14.

 

The teaching is clear, as before, Jesus wants his mathetes, to acknowledge the truth that we cannot enter the Kingdom through our human power, intelligence, resources, or skills, no, we accept salvation and hence the Kingdom as it is offered by Jesus to us, as a gift, like a little child.  A gift that we accept in faith.

 

Amen, accept Jesus Christ into your heart, and receive his gift of salvation as would a little child.  The last time the word mathetes is spoken in the gospel of Mark, it is spoken by an angel to Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome, "He has been raised, he is not here. Behold the place where they laid him.  But go and tell his mathetes and Peter, "He is going before you to Galilee, there you will see him as he told you."  Mark 16:6-7

 

As we have learned, angels are messengers, they come with a message from Jesus to his mathetes, Jesus is telling them, ‘continue to follow my Word, follow my commands, be obedient to my Word, go to Galilee, and you will see me, just as I told you before.’ Where is Jesus sending you?  To whom is Jesus sending you? Where is your Galilee?  Find it.  Yes, go to Galilee, follow Jesus to where ever he sends you.  He has a plan and purpose for your life, walk in the Spirit and this will be revealed to you.

 

Let’s summarize what we have learned: The life of a mathetes is a Spirit dominated life, no Spirit, no voice, no following, no plan, no purpose, no faith, no Light, no salvation.  Mathetes hear and follow the voice of Jesus, and no other voice, as they follow Jesus they are willing to make sacrifices and leave behind the things of the world, the things that try to bind, addict, control them, and turn them away from Jesus, away from the Holy Spirit to the enemy’s spirit.

 

Following Jesus is a “code” word in the bible for what a mathetes is and does, they are Christians, Christ followers.  Through Prayer, Word, Sacrament, and Service, mathetes stay on the Vine, they are always where Jesus is and seek him in the homeless, abandoned, powerless, suffering, and “other.” Following Jesus means chose his way of life, the life he teaches us and therefore we are united to his Mission of mercy, love and salvation.

 

Mathetes give testimony to the mercy, love, and power of Jesus, the mercy, love, and power they have personally received, yes, they are witnesses and never ashamed to give testimony to being born from above, of the Holy Spirit, and sing the alleluia of metanoia, “Jesus First Jesus Always.”

 

Mathetes do what Jesus does, “this state of being,” what St. Paul refers to as a “New Creation,” unites them to Jesus in Mission: Jesus was sent by the Father, and now Jesus sends us, in the power of the Holy Spirit, and tattoos SERVANT, on our hearts.

 

Mathetes totally understand that being a Spirit filled Christian, a mathetes, means a denial of the “self.”  All this, my brothers and sisters in Christ takes place and is possible one way and one way only, and that is through a life live in and with the Holy Spirit, as Fr. Raymond Brown, a brilliant Catholic theologian so eloquently states, “John is proclaiming that, just as in the first creation God breathed a living spirit into man, (Genesis 2:7) so now in the moment of the new creation Jesus breaths his own Holy Spirit into the disciples giving them eternal life.”  John 20:22.  The Gospel According to John, Volume II, p. 1037.

 

Mathetes, teach your children, friends, family, strangers, this heavenly connection: Jesus/metanoia/Holy Spirit/mathetes/eternal life.  Another theologian, Gary M. Burge, whose study and commentary on the Gospel of John is extensive and detailed, believes that in the Johannine community, and I whole heartedly agree with his thoughts, that the Holy Spirit was equated to eternal life, and therefore in John’s community, to worship God in Spirit and truth, as Jesus asks us to (John 4:24) a mathetes must have the Holy Spirit abiding in them, they literally must be “Temples of the Holy Spirit,” as St. Paul and the Word teach.   Burge comments, “One must be joined with the above, be born of the Spirit, in order to share in the discipleship of Jesus.”  Gary M. Burge, The Holy Spirit in the Johannine Tradition, p. 192.

 

There is one final revelation on what it means to be a mathetes of Jesus Christ, that is not found in Matthew, Mark, or Luke, and please take this Word from the Gospel of John, to your hearts, because no walk in the Father's vineyard can ever be accomplished without this, "I give you a new commandment: love one another.  As I have loved you, so you should love one another.  This is how all will know that you are my mathetes, if you have love for one another."  John 13: 34-35.

 

Amen to the Blood of the Father's Lamb, Jesus Christ.  Amen to the power of Pentecost.  Keep reading the Word.  Receive the Body and Blood often. Walk with power, the Holy Spirit, in the Father’s vineyard.  We are united in prayer through Spirit.  No one can change this.

 

 

JFJA

 

Grace and peace,

 

Joseph

 

 

SPIRITUAL EXERCISES

 

 

1.  Write down who you were before metanoia, and who you are today as a mathetes.

 

 

2.  Name some plans that Jesus has set before you to accomplish.

 

 

3.  What are some of the ways in which you have denied yourself to follow Jesus.

 

 

4.  Which of Jesus' teachings to his mathetes struck the deepest chord in your heart.

 

 

5.  How has the Holy Spirit come alive in your life?

 

 

6.  Who have you been giving testimony to?

 

 

New Sowers:  expect to be sent in the Spirit, by Jesus, to people and places that you are uncomfortable with.  Do not fear this "uncomfortableness."  This is Jesus’ spiritual boot camp for new mathetes. He is testing you, breaking down old ideas and expectations about ourselves and starting anew.

 

Yes, in the sending, Jesus wants to bestow new spiritual gifts upon you, to receive them you must trust him, remain humble and courageous at the same time, meaning you need to go, when he sends you.  Jesus would not be sending you if he did not know that you can accomplish what he is sending you to do.  Always trust that Jesus knows what you can and can’t accomplish better than you do.

 

You will be amazed at who you really are.  Fight through all nervousness and anxiety, that’s the old you, stopped from acting by such human things, you are now born from above, Spirit guided and Jesus sent, receive and act in that POWER, not you own.  Amen to the Blood.

 

 

WISDOM OF THE MARTYRS

 

“Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves.  Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without Church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession.  Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”  Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Grace and Discipleship, p 44-45.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer is a Lutheran pastor and theologian, he was hung by the Nazis’ in April of 1945, for participating the attempted assassination of Adolf Hitler.

 

 

CLOSING PRAYER

 

Jesus I want to be your mathetes and learn from you and only you, I want to hear your voice and only your voice, teach me your ways, teach me your truth, teach me your Word, the way to Life.

 

Jesus I have been slandered, lied too, and betrayed so many times in my life, it is hard for me to trust and to know what the truth really is: help me, heal me, guide me.

 

Jesus surrounded me with men and women who believe and live in your truth, in your Spirit.

 

Jesus restore my life in truth, restore my life in trust.

 

Jesus teach me how to be a mathetes, I want to follow you in my joys and my sorrows.

 

Jesus teach me how to serve, I’ve never had a tattoo, but please right now Jesus, tattoo the word servant on my heart, and Jesus, don’t use regular ink, no Jesus, use your own Blood, so my tattoo can be permanent, so I can serve you in the manner in which you have chosen for me.

 

Jesus please have patience with me.  I lived with the spirit of the enemy for a long time, I served only my self for so long, this is all new to me, I'm really not sure how to receive the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit and to serve others, or how to get involved in the things of God, the things of your Church.

 

Teach me Lord, like your servant Samuel, I am finally able to hear your voice, Jesus I am listening, really Jesus, I am listening, I am ready to be sent, my heart is open, send me my Love.

 

Yes, today Jesus I am listening, following, and trying my best to be obedient to your Word, I am your mathetes.  Today I can hear your voice, I am one of your sheep, and my heart has never been so filled with peace and joy and purpose, thank you Jesus.

 

Thank you and please continue to be my Shepherd and my Potter, yes Jesus, on a daily basis, form me, mold me, shape be, guide me, and fire me into an unbreakable image of the person you created me to be since the beginning of time, a mathetes, living a life that always brings glory to our heavenly Father, a life dominated by the Holy Spirit.  Thank you Jesus.  All praise, glory, and honor to you.  Jesus I love you.