Then he made his disciples get into the boat and precede him to the other side toward Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. And when he had taken leave of them, he went off to the mountain to pray. When it was evening, the boat was far out on the sea and he was alone on shore. Then he saw that they were tossed about while rowing, for the wind was against them. About the fourth watch of the night, he came toward them walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them. But when they saw him walking on the sea, they thought it was a ghost and cried out. They had all seen him and were terrified. But at once he spoke with them, “Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid!” He got into the boat with them and the wind died down. They were (completely) astounded. They had not understood the incident of the loaves. On the contrary, their hearts were hardened (Mark 6:45-52).
When he had risen, early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons. She went and told his companions who were mourning and weeping. When they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe (Mark 16:9-11).
(But) later, as the eleven were at table, he appeared to them and rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart because they had not believed those who saw him after he had been raised. He said to them, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned. These signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will drive out demons, they will speak new languages. They will pick up serpents (with their hands), and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them. They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”
So then the Lord Jesus, after he spoke to them, was taken up into heaven and took his seat at the right hand of God. But they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the word through accompanying signs” (Mark 16:14-20).
And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age (Matthew 28:20).
It is so easy as Catholic men to think that because of our many weaknesses, we cannot be used by God as were the first disciples of Christ. Yet, when we look more closely at the first disciples’ lives, we realize that God used them mightily in spite of their weaknesses. Why were the disciples so astounded when Jesus calmed the storm? Mark tells us it was because their hearts were still hard (Mark 6:52). Even though they had witnessed the multiplication of the loaves, they couldn’t quite grasp who Jesus was. And even after Jesus rose from the dead, many of them still didn’t believe (16:11). But despite their weaknesses, the disciples persevered. What kept them going? What gave them the strength to be witnesses for Christ and lay the foundation for the church we see today?
The only credible answer to this question is: “God came to them in the person of Jesus Christ!” When the disciples were cowering in their storm-tossed boat, Jesus came to them and said, “Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid!” (Mark 6:50). When they had a hard time believing in his resurrection, he appeared to them, took them to task, and told them to go preach the gospel (16:14-20). It wasn’t their great speaking ability or tremendous courage that made them such great witnesses or allowed them to make a huge impact on the world. It was Jesus’ presence and the infilling of the Holy Spirit that gave them the power and boldness to keep going (Matthew 28:20).
Many times we are like the disciples, worn out from dealing with the storms of life. Yet, we as Catholic men have been given the same mission as the early disciples. We are called to be witnesses for Christ and impact the lives of others through the Gospel. However, during these times of stress, we may think that putting more time and effort into solving the problem is the answer. But then we realize that “a king is not saved by a mighty army, nor a warrior delivered by great strength” (Psalm 33:16). We see how limited our own resources are, and we know that only God can help us.
Though you can’t see him, know that Jesus knows everything going on in your life. He is watching you, just as he watched the disciples from the shore, ready to come to your aid. But he’s even closer than he was to them! Through his Holy Spirit he is already within you. He wants to bring you strength, healing, peace, and every gift that you need to be his witness. You are his child, so ask him for help. Then as you quiet your heart, you will hear him say, “Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid!”
“Lord, you know that I can’t answer your call to be your witness apart from you. Please send me your Spirit, so that I can walk in your truth, love, and power. Please help me to join with other brothers in Christ to fulfill the mission you have called us to. Lord Jesus, I place all my trust in you!”
Maurice Blumberg is a Trustee of the National Fellowship of Catholic Men (http://www.catholicmensresources.org//) and Director of Partner Relations for Partners in Evangelism, (http://www2.wau.org/partners/), a Ministry to Servicemen and Prisoners for The Word Among Us (http://www.wau.org/).
[Many thanks to The Word Among Us for allowing us to adapt material from daily meditations in their monthly devotional magazine. Used with permission.]
Questions for Reflection/Discussion by Catholic Men
- 1. The article opens with these words, “It is so easy as Catholic men to think that because of our many weaknesses, we cannot be used by God as were the first disciples of Christ.” Do you ever think this way? What is the fallacy in this way of thinking (especially when we look at the lives of the early disciples)?
- 2. Why are Jesus’ presence and the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives so critical to our fulfilling the mission God has called us to? What steps can you take to make Jesus’ presence and the Holy Spirit a greater reality in your life (e.g., in your times of prayer and throughout the day)?
- 3. Do you believe, as the article states, that “we as Catholic men have been given the same mission as the early disciples”? Why or why not? What do you believe that mission is?
- 4. If you are in a men’s group, end your meeting by praying that each of you would say yes to Jesus’ mission for your life, individually, and as a group. Use the prayer at end of the article as the starting point.