The Life of Christ

Mgr. E Le Camus




HERE begins another series of journeys in Galilee, the details of which are completely unknown to us. Jesus went from town to town, from borough to borough, the Evangelists1 say, instructing the people in the synagogues, preaching the coming of the Messianic Kingdom, and healing the sick that were brought to Him.

It was a picturesque and beautiful sight: the travelling Church like a blessed caravan, bearing here and there, together with the GoodTidings, the rich treasures of heaven. A few of the Apostles went on before as heralds to announce the coming of the Great Prophet. Some pious women, on foot or mounted on quiet mules, followed the glorious expedition and aided it as much by their resources as by their thoughtful solicitude. Their presence could not constitute a danger to the Apostolic circle.

When one has come to know a woman's soul in its utmost depths, and has had to manifest pity for her; when one has raised her from her disgrace, restored her to virtue, and, above all, introduced her to the higher life of grace, there is nothing to apprehend from her constant presence. She deems herself inferior to her benefactor, and by that very fact, like a bee disarmed, she has lost her disastrous goad; vanity no longer whispers to her the desire of pleasure, and gratitude removes all thought of victory or of conquest. Then, into the soul comes the sweet, calm sentiment of friendship which unfailingly excludes passion with its violence and its danger. She loves faithfully, devotedly, and with incomparable tenderness. No longer able to do man harm, she aids him with a patience that nothing wearies and with a generosity that knows no bounds.

All the women who followed Jesus had been healed by Him of some moral or physical ill. The first one named is Mary Magdalen. We know the powerful motives of her gratitude; the unfortunate woman had been delivered from seven demons, that is, delivered from the yoke of the passions that stained her youth and dishonored her life. After her came Joanna, the wife of Chusa a steward of King Herod, it may be, that officer of the court who, having obtained from Jesus the cure of his son, had become a believer together with all his house;2 Susanna, of whom the Gospel history gives no information, and several others, who, later on, grouped at the foot of the cross, or hurrying to the door of the sepulchre, will prove, to the shame of the Apostles, that a woman's heart, in its affections, knows not the inconstancy that sometimes dishonors the heart of man.

These holy friends, according to the little information which we have concerning them, belonged for the most part to the wealthier class of Jewish society, yet they were not without an admixture of democracy; for although Joanna had lived in Herod's court, Salome, the mother of James and John, was married to a fisherman who had hired assistants, and Mary of Cleophas was in all probability the wife of a simple artisan. Mary Magdalen was of an honorable family of Bethany, of which we shall learn something later on.3 All together assisted Jesus and His Apostles in their needs whenever honorable hospitality failed to come to their aid in the material difficulties of life. It was part of the divine plan that the Messiah should live here below on the charity of the people. The Apostolic community had a treasury in which were placed the alms given them, and from which they drew in order to supply the needs of the poor. But the most certain resource was ever the hearts of these deserving women who had devoted themselves to the work of fulfilling for the Master and His disciples the duties of mothers and sisters.

The details of this new Apostolic journey into Galilee are wanting; but we know that Jesus must have been impressed with the vast proportions of the religious movement provoked by the GoodTidings. He could not be everywhere at the same time to do and to preach, and, moreover, the hour was at hand when He must transfer to Judea and to Jerusalem itself His work in the preaching of the Gospel. He determined to associate His disciples more directly in His own labors. It was not in vain that they had received the title of Apostle. How could they prepare themselves for their future mission more profitably than under the Master's eye?

Jesus therefore solemnly called them together and, explaining the conditions in which they are to labor, said to them: "Go ye not into the way of the Gentiles, and into the cities of the Samaritans enter ye not; but go ye rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel."4 The Jews are to be the sole object of their first Apostolate. For the present, the evangelization of the pagans would be beyond their strength. They must await the coming of the Holy Ghost and His creative work at Pentecost before they undertake so great a conquest. Even the Samaritans, the middle term between Israel and the Gentiles, offered insurmountable obstacles to inexperienced zeal. Great, indeed, will be the gain if the Apostles succeed in effecting in some of their compatriots the religious transformation that has revolutionized their own lives. This result does not seem impossible, for, while between paganism and the new religion there is an abyss, between this latter and the Israelites there is a visible connection, and the transition would be most natural.

Besides, in addition to this presumed insufficiency of the Apostles, there is another motive that inspires Jesus' recommendation. For Israel alone He has destined the firstfruits of the Gospel. For Israel first of all the light rises in the heavens. Only after the Israelites may the Gentiles profit by it. The sons of the patriarchs, the children of the prophets cannot be deprived of their birthright. Before all others, theirs is the privilege of being invited to receive the religious heritage of their fathers, to enjoy the fulfillment of the ancient promises made to Israel.

The theme of the Apostles' preaching is as follows: "And going, preach, saying, The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand." They have only to make an announcement, to spread the tidings, to bear witness, to attract the attention and dispel the indifference of all. To teach the word of truth magisterially, would as yet be impossible to them; for one can give only what he has, and they, scarcely acquainted with the rudiments of Christian life, can neither define its conditions nor make known its elements. Their work is to announce: "The Messiah is come." To gain credit for their assertion, they will perform miracles. "Heal the sick," adds Jesus . . . "cleanse the lepers, cast out devils." By this sign, the miracle, the guarantee of truth given by God to human words, men shall see that they are not liars. By their disinterestedness they shall be known as men serving no human intention, but following a higher inspiration. "Freely have you received, freely give." By accepting money they would degrade the Apostolic ministry. Providence will care for the heralds of the GoodTidings. God takes upon Himself the keeping of His servants. "Do not possess gold," the Master continues, "nor silver, nor money in your purses; nor scrip for your journey, nor two coats, nor shoes, nor a staff;5 for the workman is worthy of his hire." In return for the truth he brings, the Apostle will receive the material help necessary that he may live.

"And into whatsoever city or town you shall enter, inquire who in it is worthy." The Apostle honors him with whom he lodges. "Wheresoever you shall enter into a house, there abide till you depart from that place." Any change would denote a desire of comfort and a certain inconstancy of character unworthy in a man of God, and besides would wound the feelings of the host, whom he would seem to disdain. The true laborer of the Gospel is content with what he has at hand, seeking nothing better, believing that God in His mercy had prepared this for him. He would hesitate to substitute for the will of his Heavenly Father his own pleasant personal preferences.

"And when you come into the house, salute it, saying, Peace be to this house; and if that house be worthy, your peace shall come upon it." If the family respond to the blessing pronounced upon it, if by its virtues it merit receiving the man of God, the Apostle's wish is accomplished, and heaven's benediction is fulfilled. "But if it be not worthy, your peace shall return to you." The Apostles shall keep the divine favors for some more hospitable and betterdisposed people. "And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, going forth out of that house or city shake off the dust from your feet6 for a testimony against them. Amen, I say to you, it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city." Nothing reaches the Master's heart more sensibly than the welcome given to His disciples. If closing against them the door of the house or the gates of the city is a crime, giving them a cordial welcome will be a meritorious act. "He that receiveth you," again says Jesus, "receiveth Me; and he that receiveth Me receiveth Him that sent Me. He that receiveth a prophet in the name of the prophet, shall receive the reward of a prophet." To nourish him, to shelter him, to clothe him is to aid him in the fulfillment of his mission, to have a share in his labors and, consequently, in his merits. "And he that receiveth a just man in the name of a just man, shall receive the reward of a just man." How often this thought has opened the heart and the treasury of the rich to the servants of God, seeking assistance for their projects! The Master's word has pleaded for them and, thanks to the generous souls who have heard it, their goodwill, their faith, their devotion have been enabled to realize the most sublime dreams of charity and of religion.

And, finally, with a deep feeling of tenderness for these humble disciples who go joyously to inaugurate their Apostolate, but whose coming trials He clearly perceives, He exclaims: "And whosoever shall give to drink to one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, amen, I say to you, he shall not lose his reward."

For a first, tentative mission, which was to be brief and free from danger, these instructions were sufficient. Moreover, the attitude of the Galilean towns whither the Apostles were going was, for the most part, encouraging. Any messenger who announced the Messiah would be welcomed there. Later on, when the seventy disciples themselves are sent upon their mission, we shall study the Master's words of advice for times of persecution. Then they shall come from His lips most naturally, since the storm will surround the little flock on all sides. It will seem only reasonable that the Shepherd, after having told of the woes that await Himself, should speak of the trials reserved for His representatives.7

The Apostles, therefore, departed two by two, as Jesus had recommended.8 They did this as a means of mutual help and of giving authoritative testimony to the truth; for the law recognized as true the depositions of two witnesses who agreed. When the moon of Nisan appeared in the sky, two men went and presented themselves before the Sanhedrim to attest that they had seen it, and, on their affirmation, the beginning of the new year was proclaimed. It was right that the Apostles also should be sent in twos, as witnesses who were to announce to a city the rising of the sun of justice and the commencement of the Gospel era.

The Apostles spread rapidly in all directions, preaching repentance and preparing hearts for the approach of the Kingdom of God. They were readily welcomed, and nothing failed them.9 They exorcised demons and healed many that were sick. The better to arouse the faith of the infirm, they had recourse, according to St. Mark, to an outward sign, the anointing with oil. Doubtless, the Master had so commanded. Besides, He Himself did not hesitate at times to move the senses that He might reach the soul, and to employ a material element that He might awaken faith in those whom He desired to heal. When He made use of His own spittle to open the eyes of a blind man or to loose the tongue of one deaf and dumb, it was solely to supply, by this physical contact, the moral influence which His look or His word could not produce. Likewise the Apostles, by applying oil to the bodies of the sick, sought to arouse religious dispositions in their souls. And thus they prepared the miraculous cure signified by the anointing.

Their mission was not fruitless. The religious movement was seen to grow more and more in Galilee. From this agitation there came forth new recruits to the nascent Church. Jesus received them with joy and patiently undertook their religious formation. But the march of events was not to leave Him for long the leisure to pursue this work of edification.

The Apostolic group itself will claim His chief efforts, for it must be disciplined in all haste, by drill, both in retreat and in resistance, before it shall be led to the decisive combat in the capital of Judea.

1 St. Matt. ix, 35; St. Mark vi, 6; St. Luke viii, 1.

2 St. John iv 53.

3 It is surprising not to find Mary, the Mother of Jesus, among these names. It may be, however, that this is an oversight, occasioned we know not how, in the Synoptic tradition; an oversight again met with in the enumeration of the women present on Calvary, but for which St. John afterward more than makes amends. It may be, again, that, a retired and silent life being better suited to Mary's contemplative soul, this saintly Mother preferred through humility to refrain from accompanying her Son in His triumphs, though later on she most jealously followed Him even in His deepest humiliations.

4 This recommendation is omitted in St. Mark vi, 8, as well as in St. Luke ix, 3. In the latter the omission is accidental and by no means inspired by universalist tendencies. This restriction being only provisional, the two Evangelists attach no importance to it, and St. Matthew, who notes it, will tell later on (xxviii, 19) in what terms Jesus withdrew it.

5 Were we to repeat the word two before shoes and staff, we should do away with the apparent divergency between St. Mark and St. Matthew. In the latter Gospel the Savior means: "Take nothing more than what you already have, no other shoes, no other staff"; in the former: "What you now have with you will suffice, the shoes on your feet, the staff in your hand," etc. The text of St. Luke (ix, 13) is more difficult. This is probably another of those unimportant inaccuracies which we must admit in the sacred text, unless we read rabdous, as in St. Matthew, and not rabdon, as in St. Mark; but the absolute negative mnden renders this reading inadmissible. However, although the terms differ, the idea is the same in a three Gospels: "No preparation for the journey; go as you are with God's protection."

6 The Jews were accustomed to shake the dust from their shoes when they had walked on pagan ground. The places inhabited by Gentiles were as vile as the Gentiles themselves. In Jewish casuistry there are ridiculously severe prescriptions regarding this. See Lightfoot, Hor. Hebr., in St. Matt. x, 14. Jesus means here that the faithless Israelite must be for the Apostle like a veritable pagan, and that his crime is abominable in God's sight. St. Paul obeyed these precepts. (Ads xiii, 15; xviii, 6.)

7 St. Matthew has put all this together because, passing over the later sending of the seventy disciples, he found trouble in otherwise distributing those important instructions which he did not wish to sacrifice. Again, it is well known that he took pleasure frequently in summing up in one discourse such teachings as were analogous, although given at different times. St. Luke, in this discourse at least, puts each in its own place.

8 St. Mark vi, 7, is alone in observing that they were to go two by two; but the lists of Apostles all seem to be made in view of this arrangement.

9 We learn this from a word that Jesus uttered during the Last Supper. (St. Luke xxii, 35.)

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