The Unheroic Heroism of the Disciples

The Unheroic Heroism of the Disciples September 28, 2016


You Could Not Watch One Hour With Me by James Tissot


Just think of what they had seen.

Withered hands stretched back to wholeness. Sightless eyes granted vision. Leprous skin made clean. Food multiplied. Storms calmed. Graves surrendering their dead. Forgiveness granted. Pride laid low. Dignity restored. And the stories – the parables – were so approachable, yet so profound.

These men had seen the face of God revealed through the unlined face of a carpenter’s son.

Only now, they slept.

Asked by the man who was their God to keep watch, to remain strong, to simply be there for Him during his Agony, they dozed off.


But do you want to know something?

That’s me.

But here’s the thing.

The disciples give me hope because they seem so hopeless. Doubting when they should believe. Speaking up when they should be quiet. Falling asleep when they should stay awake. Time and again, they show their greed, pride, laziness, impatience and simple ineptitude when they should be more like Christ.

And in the crucible of Christ’s Agony and Passion, they were the most unheroic of heroes.

With their flight, their hiding, their overt betrayal of God-made-man, came shame and doubt. After three years of what they learned, what they saw, what they became

Just look at what they were. Running. Cowering. Fearful.


But Christ didn’t think so.

As he hung on the cross and bled and groaned and died by inches, he managed to utter,

“Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”

This forgiveness wasn’t simply asked for the Romans and the Pharisees.

It was asked for the disciples as well. And for us.

Christ built his infallible Church on the fallibility of man. The thorn of sin stuck in the side of man made him dependent on God…if only man would recognize it. And the diverging paths of history’s most famous traitors, Peter and Judas, epitomize this Truth. Peter, in recognizing his helplessness in sin, received new life through Christ’s Grace. Judas, despairing of his impotence in the face of sin, immolated in his self-imposed dead end of blackness.

And so the wounded, but redeemed disciples-turned-apostles would start anew. Strengthened by their infirmities, yet inspired by the Holy Spirit, they walked forward. Fallible still, but just a bit less proud, less selfish, less alone. They changed the world. And us.

Today, we are called to be heroic, even though we feel (and often are) unheroic.

But Christ knows this.

And like the simple fishermen and tax collectors – redeemable sinners – he chose as his standard-bearers, he will guide us. In spite of our weakness and infirmity, in big things and little, he will accompany us. If only we believe.

“‘Go on with your work,’ he said. ‘Keep at the little daily things that need doing, till the rest comes. Concentrate. Think of a lad at his homework, trying so hard and his tongue sticking out. That’s how our Lord would have us be when he gives us up to our own strength. Little things – they don’t look like much, but they bring peace. Like wild flowers which seem to have no scent, till you get a field full of ’em.'”

– The Priest of Torcy from Georges Bernanos’ Diary of a Country Priest

So let’s go on with God’s work. Inspired by the example of fallible, but earnest disciples, reassured by unheroic heroes.

Just think what we could do.

Just think.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons


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