As we approach the Feast of the Apostles, we are reminded of the work the first pioneers of our Faith completed to establish the Church. These men chosen by Jesus were commanded to preach the coming of the Kingdom of God. They had authority to heal the sick, cleanse lepers, raise the dead, and cast out demons (Matt 10:8).
By definition, an apostle (Greek ἀπόστολος) is one who is called by God and sent on a holy mission. This work was not in any way limited to the acts of the 12 main disciples, or even the 70 lesser disciples also sent out by Jesus. For instance, the first apostles appeared in the Old Testament and were the Prophets sent by God. They were instructed to lead God’s chosen people, to reveal God’s will, to teach His commandments and His covenant, to convince people to repent and to warn of impending dangers.
In the New Testament, we also read of other apostles. St Paul is the most famous, calling himself ‘a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God’ (Rom 1:1). In John 1:6 we read ‘there was a man sent from God (Greek ἀπεσταλμένος) whose name was John’, the Forerunner and Baptist, who was sent to prepare the hearts of the people by preaching repentance. But the greatest apostle of all, whom all the others imitated in their apostleship, is of course Jesus Christ. He is described as ‘the Apostle and High Priest of our confession’ (Heb 3:1). He was sent and appointed by the Father to be born of a Virgin, to die on the Cross and to rise again on the third day, to enrich the Church with the Holy Sacraments and to lead us all into eternal life.
It is worth noting that of all ministries in the Church, apostleship is numbered first: ‘God has appointed these in the Church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers…’ (1 Cor 12:28). It is first because it consists of laying the foundation upon which everything else is to be built. These apostles were all energised by the grace of the Holy Spirit, Who constantly confirmed their calling and directed their apostleship. They all harboured a fiery zeal for spreading the Gospel, tremendous faith, self-sacrifice and unfading perseverance.
However, the office of apostleship also has a general role in the Church, since it is described in our Creed as the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. All Christians are called to exercise their gifts and talents to become messengers of the Gospel to their relatives, friends, neighbours, colleagues and many others.
Do you imagine that you don’t have the “essence” of an apostle? You are not alone. Even St Paul thought that he was ‘less than the least of all the saints’ (Eph 3:8), but God’s strength is made perfect in weakness (2 Cor 12:9).
The Acts of the Apostles does not conclude with chapter 28. Many men and women alike have gone on to earn the title “Equal-to-the-Apostles (Greek Ἰσαπόστολοι) and appended their own chapter to this God inspired book, and you can too. The first step is to follow Jesus who says, ‘follow me and I will make you fishers of men!’ (Matt 4:19).