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Friends, in today’s Gospel, Jesus begins his public ministry and calls his first disciples.

When Jesus emerged publicly and began preaching the kingdom of God, he was taken to mean something very specific—namely, that the tribes of Israel, scattered by sin, were being gathered. The Israelite hope was that, in the Messianic era, Israel would become a godly nation gathered around the common worship of the true God at the temple on Mount Zion, and that this united Israel would become, in turn, a beacon to the other nations of the world. Jesus’ entire preaching and ministry should be read under this rubric of the great gathering.

Jesus gathered around himself a band of Apostles whom he shaped according to his own mind and heart and whom he subsequently sent on mission. Priests down through the centuries—from Augustine and Aquinas, to Francis Xavier and John Henry Newman, to John Paul II—are the descendants of those first friends and apprentices of the Lord.

They have been needed in every age, and they are needed today, for the kingdom of heaven must be proclaimed, the poor must be served, God must be worshiped, and the sacraments must be administered.