Wednesday, March 27, 2013



In my last post, 3/19/13’s WERE THE APOSTLES COWARDLY, AVARICIOUS, SLOW…OR ALL OF THE ABOVE?, I wrote about the weaknesses of two of the apostles, James and John, the sons of Zebedee. In an earlier post, 11/21/12’s WAS ST. PETER AN ALCOHOLIC?, I discussed the shortcomings of the most prominent of the Apostles. Holy Week, besides its obvious lessons and implications, gives us an opportunity to indict, and ultimately exonerate, just about all the apostles on similar lines.

We all know that one of the apostles, Judas Iscariot, betrayed Jesus. (Matthew, 26, 14-16, et. al.) The first among equals, if you will, of the apostles, Peter, denied Jesus three times when the chips were down. (Luke, 22, 54-62, et. al.) At His point of greatest danger, all of the apostles abandoned Jesus liked terrified children; one was in such a hurry that he left all his clothes behind and ran off into the night naked. (Mark 14, 50-52). This was a pretty sorry lot.

The only apostle who came off looking even remotely brave during the events of Holy Thursday night and Good Friday was John. John was not afraid to enter the high priest’s courtyard during Jesus’ first trial and even used his pull with the high priest to get Peter into the courtyard (John 18, 15), after which Peter denied even knowing Jesus when things got hot, literally and figuratively. John also was the only male disciple at the foot of the cross. (John 19, 26-27). Not to take anything away from John, but one could argue that he was able to be so brave, at least in a relative sense, and even to be at the foot of the cross, because he was so young that both the Roman and the local authorities were willing to cut him some slack. But, all in all, the Apostles look like a petrified, pathetic lot. The women disciples…Jesus’ mother, Mary, Mary Magdalene, the mother of the aforementioned James and John, Salome, and possibly others…look a lot stronger in the accounts of the passion and death of Jesus than do the men. Again, this may have been because the authorities were willing to be even more lenient with women than they were with young men like John but, nevertheless, the women look great here, the men look like abject cowards.

Even the appearance of the resurrected Jesus does not do much to man up the Apostles. If one reads the story of “doubting Thomas” (John 20, 24-29) carefully, there is an interesting sub-plot concerning the lack of transformation of the Apostles in the wake of the visit of their newly risen Lord and Savior. That is grist for another mill.

So what caused these lily-livered lilliputians to become the great, strong, and brave men who went on to suffer deprivation, torture, and, with one exception, martyrdom so that we might hear the Good News of Jesus Christ? Clearly, it was the visit of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost that got these guys out of the upper room in which they had been cowering and into the business of facing down fearsome opponents to spread the word of God. If one ever needs testimony to the power of the Holy Spirit, one need only compare the pathetic state of this band of very limited men before the Spirit’s arrival with their near superhuman strength and courage after the Spirit paid them a permanent visit. No wonder Jesus spent so much time at the Last Supper discussing the Advocate (i.e., the Holy Spirit) that the Father was about to send to the disciples (John 14, 15-31).

The Holy Spirit, far and away, and, sadly, the most underrated of the three Persons of the Trinity, has continued to work until this very day. An example of the work of the Spirit can be found in today’s headlines: in the midst of the financial troubles in Cyprus, it is the Cypriot Orthodox Church, doubtless inspired by the Spirit, that is handing out food and other essentials to those who are suffering and offering to put up its own assets to aid in that island nation’s financial recovery. (See my posts on the Cyprus situation in my political/financial blog, Mighty Quinn on Politics and Money. Today’s is entitled JEROEN DIJSSELBLOEM’S COMMENTS ON CYPRUS: “THE DUTCHMAN’S NOT THE KIND OF MAN WHO KEEPS HIS THUMB JAMMED IN THE DAM THE WHOLE DAY THROUGH”; it will direct you to the others.)

The Holy Spirit, despite being the Person of the Trinity that is hardest to comprehend, is not something abstract or far removed from us. The Spirit is alive and active in us on a day to day basis and is available to each of us. The Spirit is especially close, or at least would like to be especially close, when we most need the Spirit, when we are feeling weak in our faith…or just plain weak, ordinary, and uninspired.

The Pentecostal churches seem to have the firmest handle on the power of the Spirit and have the fewest qualms about invoking the Spirit and the aid, comfort, and power that Spirit provides. I am again reminded of the Blues Brothers (See my 3/9/13 post, THE PHARISEES TELL JESUS TO FIX THE CIGARET LIGHTER), specifically the scene in the Reverend Cleophas James’ church in which Jake Blues realizes he is getting a message from God, when I think of the power of the Spirit. While that most entertaining scene is over the top, and most of us, and certainly not yours truly, are going to be dancing and somersaulting around the church and tossing our colleagues to the rafters, the Spirit does manifest Itself in many different ways to many different people.

The Spirit made the apostles, a pack of rather slow weaklings, wise and strong. The Spirit can do the same for us, especially when we are feeling neither wise nor strong or especially inspired. We just have to ask and perhaps, and only perhaps, be patient. Miracles don’t have to happen quickly to be miracles.

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