In chapter 6 of Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict XVI discusses “The Disciples.” This chapter provides a review of the most important texts that discuss the call and mission of the community of Christ’s closest associates.
The Holy Father begins by emphasizing this call as the fruit of prayerful intimacy of Christ with the Father, in stark contrast to the hiring of employees for a particular task. Regarding the call of the Twelve, Benedict studies the language used by Christ and finds allusions to Old Testament texts that disclose the apostolic mission as both priestly and prophetic.
The Apostles are given what Benedict calls a double assignment – to be with Jesus, so as to be prepared to preach and call others to Him. “The Apostles have to learn to be with him in a way that enables them, even when they go to the ends of the earth, to be with him still.” This apostolic mission involves a struggle with evil, which involves the use of reason that exorcises and liberates those held captive.
After discussing the particular call of the Twelve, he turns to consideration of the second group of seventy disciples. Drawing upon Old Testament texts, he explains, “seventy was considered to be the number of the nations of the world.” Thus, while the Twelve Apostles represent the restoration of the tribes of Israel, the seventy represent the universal nature of the kingdom formed by Christ.
As with most texts by Joseph Ratzinger, I found this selection to be both clear and inspiring, leaving the reader intellectually and spiritually nourished.