29 Jan 2020. 3rd Sun OT. Cycle A-2020. Is 8:23–9:3 + 1Cor 1:10-13, 17 + Mt 4:12-23
As he was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting net into the sea; they were fishermen. He said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed him. He walked along from there and saw two other brothers, James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They were in a boat, with their father Zebedee, mending their nets. He called them, and immediately they left their boat and their father and followed him (Mt 4:18-23).
A story is told that a certain staffing consultant screening apostles for Jesus presented his evaluation to him.
“Among your twelve prospects, at most two: Levi Matthew and Judas Iscariot, have skills adequate enough for a gospel ministry. The rest I found to be below par, poor in abstract knowledge, and poor in comprehension. You will run out of patience repeating before they could understand. None of them ever ventured beyond their small fishing village; they would not be able to carry your message beyond. You would not expect fishermen to speak before a crowd, do you?”
When Jesus just stared at him, not answering, the consultant continued, “I checked on their backgrounds, and found no one stands out in character… poor models of drawing people to a life of faith. Some of them have character flaws, enough to turn off prospective followers; in fact, even a couple are notorious sinners…”
Jesus interrupted him, “Maybe the picture is not all that grim. Where did you get all those dossiers?”
As the consultant shuffled his notes, he said, “Well, let me start with the first team: Simon Peter and Andrew, James and John. They are only fishermen in a small village of Bethsaida. Their worldview is limited to fishes and bread, that is, basic survival. Fiercely regionalistic, they could impede any teamwork with Bethsaida outsiders.
Simon Peter is impulsive and rash in judgment. He tends to talk and act before he thinks, and is often caught with his foot in his mouth. As quickly as he makes a decision, he quickly changes it. He puts personal loyalty above ideology.
Andrew, his brother, is more venturesome. His curiosity leads him to snoop around celebrities, like John the Baptist, and that makes him useful as a scout and a spy. Other than that, though, I find no other asset in him.
James Zebedee and his brother John are mama’s boys. The community knows too well their thunderous temperament, and not a few experienced their bullying. James is a status-seeker, and would stick it out so long as privileges abound.
John Zebedee, the other Zebedee, is too young, and his mind cannot be fixed into anything yet. His youth, however, could be an advantage, in a sense that his young mind has not yet absorbed old ways and beliefs that need to be changed. He had demonstrated a thirst for knowledge; he could be trained to be your alter ego, even your successor, that is, if your organization would be around long enough. Besides, he is deeply connected with the establishment, and could provide you some valuable inside intelligence.”
“But I could teach my fishermen team to be fishers of men,” Jesus rebutted the consultant’s assessment. “How about my second team: Levi Matthew and Judas Iscariot, Thomas Didymus and Philip? They are not fishermen, but do you think they could fish men better?” Jesus inquired.
“Why in the world do you subordinate a more educated group to a fishermen group,” the consultant answered shaking his head. “Look, Levi Matthew possesses administrative experience, a skill you may need for your business operation. On top of that, he is well connected to the rich, and would be a dependable fund raiser.
He is a net liability, I admit. I understand that his ill reputation could send many frowning. As if his collaboration with the hated Romans is not bad enough, his extortion and dishonest activities make him Public Enemy Number 1. His presence in the team would be a net crowd deterrent in the campaign.
Judas Iscariot, like Matthew, has basic financial management skills. He could handle the organization’s funds better than the rest. He is street smart and worldly prudent. His good business acumen makes him a good business manager. Like Matthew, however, he is a net liability. He has a police record for alleged embezzlement. He is a notorious opportunist, and his idealism is questionable. When the going gets rough, I presume his loyalty couldn’t be counted on.
Philip of Bethsaida is one of the street boys stalking John the Baptist, the other two being John Zebedee and Andrew. Though he has just an elementary knowledge, he is docile. He, however, would not volunteer to teach anyone.
Thomas the Didymus has a come-what-may attitude. Daring and adventurous, he hardly settles in one place, always looking for excitement. A skeptic, he needs much convincing, always asking for solid proofs, but once his doubts are cleared, he is prone to hero-worship, and his adulation could be fanatical. Despite his instability, he epitomizes a missionary to the ends of the world.
THE THIRD FOUR
I suggest the third four: Simon the Cananean, Nathanael Bartholomew, James Alphaeus, and Judas Thaddeus, be relegated to supporting roles, reserves for apostle positions in case any one of the first two fours get decommissioned. They are introverts and could hardly exert any influence in any group. They are dependable implementers, though.
Be on guard from Simon the Cananean. Like Judas Iscariot, he is a police character. He is associated with the Zealots, rebels who are on the run from the Romans. He may just be interested in identifying with you to rally support for his cause to overthrow the Romans. His presence in the group puts your organization at risk of getting outlawed.
Nathanael Bartholomew is gullible and does not take much to convince him. But he is a pessimist consigned to inconsequential life in Nazareth.”
“But he is a true Israelite,” Jesus interrupted the consultant, “there is no duplicity in him. Anyway, go ahead finish your assessment.”
I realize James Alphaeus and Judas Thaddeus are your relatives, and I do not blame you for needing a couple of confidants and bloodline allies into your group. Hardly anybody but you knows about them and are too timid to talk about themselves.”
The consultant wrapped up his assessment with a warning, “As a whole, your prospects are prone to squabbling, and appear to be opportunist status-seekers, hoping to join your ministry as a stepping stone to greater community status, and an escape from poverty. They would abandon you at the first sign of trouble.”
Before the consultant could say any further, Jesus raised his right hand motioning him to stop. Then he slowly squatted and reached for the ground, scribbling some lines with his right forefinger. As he slowly rose, he began to speak.
PARABLE OF THE BRAIN SURGEON
“Listen to this parable. A brain surgeon came to a city offering his brain-replacement system. He was brought to the king to whom he presented a catalogue of the brains he had stocked in his brain bank. The king scanned through the catalogue, pausing longer at the celebrities’ brains such as those of Plato, Aristotle, King Solomon, Julius Caesar, and Cicero.
With the cost of the brain and the surgery to transplant it, that of Aristotle and Plato each commanded 500 denarii; King Solomon’s was for 600; Julius Caesar’s was for 700 denarii, and Cicero’s was for 800.
As the king continued to go over the catalogue, he could not help notice that a lowly fisherman’s brain commanded an all time high 1,2000 denarii, even twice more expensive than that of wise King Solomon. And the carpenter’s was a little cheaper at 1,000, but still expensive—twice that of a celebrated philosopher.
Trying to smoothen the king’s wrinkled frown, the surgeon explained, ‘The fisherman’s brain, your honor, is hardly used, good as new; while that of King Solomon was used to the max, practically burned out.”
Then Jesus, putting his arm around the astonished consultant’s shoulder, asked him. “If you were the king, whose brain would you pick? And if you are to teach new ways to the world, would you start with wise people who would keep arguing on psychology, philosophy, theology, and strategy? Does anybody today understand what theologians are saying? Their brilliant minds are enriching Webster’s dictionary, but are blinding the simple minds.
“They are just fishermen, but they jumped into the opportunity to follow me. They opened their hearts and provided a room for me in their ins. I will sow intellect that bears fruit on brains that are open, receptive, obedient, and trusting.
“Their simple minds would teach my words simply for simple minds to grasp. Their simple lives would witness to the poor that it does not take intelligence to know me and to follow me. They are easier to make fishers of men.” VSS
“Observing the boldness of Peter and John and perceiving them to be uneducated, ordinary men, they were amazed…” (Ac 4:13).
 The story is purely fiction, but based on limited references to the apostles in the Sacred Scriptures, and in Sacred Tradition.
Picture: The Calling of the Apostles, a Sistine Chapel fresco at the Northern Wall, by Domenico Ghirlandaio (1449-1494).