Twelve Are Chosen: Mark 3: 13-19

He went up the mountain and summoned those whom he wanted and they came to him. He appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) that they might be with him andhe might send them forth to preach and to have authority to drive out demons: (he appointed the twelve): Simon, whom he named Peter; James, son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James, whom he named Boanerges, that is, sons of thunder; Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus; Thaddeus, Simon the Cananean, and Judas Iscariot who betrayed him.

Have you ever wondered about the twelve disciples (whom he also named apostles) ? Where they came from, what they did, before and after Jesus called them? Well then….let’s take a look.

Judas Iscariot: the man who betrayed Jesus, thus always mentioned last. The Aramaic word Iscariot  literally means – man of Kerioth. Kerioth was a town near Hebron (Josh. 15:25) in Judea. Judean’s despised the people of Galilee, and this attitude may have alienated Judas from the other disciples. He acted as treasurer for the group. He betrayed the Lord for thirty pieces of silver and, after trying to return the money, went and hung himself (Matt. 27:5).

Simon the Canaanite (Canaanean): Referd to as Zelotes(or the Zealot) by Luke (6:15). Canaanite is the English transliteration of the Aramaic word kann’ah ; both words mean – zealous one, so some believe he may have belonged to the Jewish sect known as the Zealots. The tradition of the Coptic Church of Egypt states he preached in Egypt, Africa, Great Britain and Persia. He died a martyr’s death and along with Jude Thaddeus his Feast Day is celebrated on October. 28.

Jude Thaddeus: St. Jerome called this apostle Trionius– the man with three names. Judas (not Iscariot) and Lebbus are the other two (found in Jn. 14:22 and Matt. 10:3, respectively). He’s believed to be the brother of James the Lessand the author of the epistle Jude of the New Testament. Eusebius, the Church historian, says that Jesus sent this disciple to King Abgar of Mesopotamia to pray for his healing. He remained there and preached in that region. He died a martyr’s death and along with Simon the Canaanean his Feast Day is also October. 28.

James the Less, son of Alpheus: Believed to be the brother of Jude Thaddeus, and the author of the epistle of James of the New Testament. Tradition says he died a martyr by being sawed into pieces. His Feast Day is May 3.

Thomas: John’s Gospel gives us the most complete picture of this disciple. John says he was called Didymus  the Greek word for twin. With no background information on him we can only guess that he was a fisherman, for he was with six other disciples who returned to their boats after the Crucifixion (Jn. 21:2,3). He is often referred to as “Doubting” Thomas (Jn. 20:25) but was seen as bold earlier, as Jesus informs the twelve he is returning to Judea, Thomas proclaims, “Let us also go, that we may die with Him” (Jn. 11:16). St. Augustine commented on him, “He doubted that we may not doubt.” Tradition says he went to India and was martyred there. His named is carried on by the Marthoma rite. His Feast Day is July 3.

Levi Matthew: the former tax collector and author of the first Gospel. Because of his line of work, it’s very probable that he was well educated. Of all the Gospels, his was chosen to appear at the beginning of the canon and second – century literature quotes from it more than any other, stressing it’s influence and significance. Tradition isn’t exactly clear what happened to Matthew after Pentecost, though it’s believed he was martyred in Ethiopia. His Feast Day is celebrated on September 21.

Bartholomew Nathanael: Not alot is known of this apostle either. In Aramaic Bartholomew means – son of Thalmai. So, he may be named after King Thalmai of Geshur (II Sam. 3:3). Some scholars believe he may be connected with the Ptolemies, based on St. Jerome’s statement that he was the only apostle of noble birth. St. Bede the Venerable reports that this apostle was beheaded by King Astriagis in India. The Armenian Rite claims him as their founder and his Feast Day is celebrated on August 24.

Phillip: John’s gospel gives us the only details of this apostle’s life. He was one of the few called individually and he introduced Bartholomew to Jesus (Jn. 1:45-51). He didn’t know how they would feed 5000 people (Jn. 6:7). He and Andrew introduced a group of Greek men to Jesus (Jn. 12:20-22). And at the Last Supper he said to Jesus, “Lord show us the Father, and it is enough for us” (Jn. 14:8). There are several traditions surrounding Phillip’s later ministry, yet Bishop Polycrates of Antioch wrote in 194 A.D., “Phillip, one of the twelve apostles, sleeps at Hierapolis.” His Feast Day is celebrated with James the Less, son of Alpheus on May 3.

Andrew: this apostle was Simon’s (Peter) brother. In fact, it was Andrew who told Simon, “We have found the Messiah…” (Jn. 1:41). They were the sons of Jonah (or John) and worked in his fishing business, before following the Lord. Tradition says that Andrew was crucified on an X – shaped cross (known now as St. Andrew’s cross. His Feast Day is celebrated on November 30.

John: one of the sons of Zebedee, brother of James the Greater. He was part of Jesus’ inner-circle. He wrote several New Testament books; the Gospel of John, 1st, 2nd and, 3rd John and, Revelation. Known as “the beloved disciple”  John was the only apostle not to forsake Jesus at the cross. Jesus charges him with taking care of His mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, at His death. He did and they moved to Ephesus where he was bishop, and where the Virgin Mary was Assumed. Tertullian reports that John was taken to Rome and “plunged into boiling oil, unhurt, and then exiled on an island.” John was the only apostle to not suffer a martyr’s death. His Feast Day is celebrated on December 27; he is also my patron saint!

James the Greater: the older son of Zebedee, John’s brother, and also a part of Jesus’ inner-circle. Jesus called these brothers, Boanerges  which means “sons of thunder,” perhaps a description of their personalities. As part of the inner-circle, he witnessed the Transfiguration (Matt. 17:1) and the agony in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matt. 26:37). He preached in Jerusalem and Judea and was the first apostle to be martyred, being beheaded by Herod Agrippa in 44 A.D.. His Feast Day is July 25.

Simon: a fisherman from Galilee, led to Jesus by his brother Andrew (Jn. 1:40,41). He heads the list of apostles in each Gospel, which suggests he was the most significant of the twelve, being their leader, particularly, after Jesus’ Ascension into heaven. Jesus changed his name from Simon which means – hearer  to Peter which means – rock, and told Peter that he would be the “rock” He would build His church upon (Matt. 16:18). He is honored as the founder of the Holy See in Rome, the first pope of Christ’s Church. He was martyred around 64 A.D. under the reign of Nero, asking to be crucified upside-down, for he was “not worthy to die as his Lord had died”. His Feast Day is celebrated on June 29, which is the day shared with St. Paul the Apostle.

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:


The Apostles’ mission


Jesus is the Father’s Emissary. From the beginning of his ministry, he “called to him those whom he desired; . . . . And he appointed twelve, whom also he named apostles, to be with him, and to be sent out to preach.” From then on, they would also be his “emissaries” (Greek apostoloi). In them, Christ continues his own mission: “As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.” The apostles’ ministry is the continuation of his mission; Jesus said to the Twelve: “he who receives you receives me.”
Jesus unites them to the mission he received from the Father. As “the Son can do nothing of his own accord,” but receives everything from the Father who sent him, so those whom Jesus sends can do nothing apart from him, from whom they received both the mandate for their mission and the power to carry it out. Christ’s apostles knew that they were called by God as “ministers of a new covenant,” “servants of God,” “ambassadors for Christ,” “servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.”
In the office of the apostles there is one aspect that cannot be transmitted: to be the chosen witnesses of the Lord’s Resurrection and so the foundation stones of the Church. But their office also has a permanent aspect. Christ promised to remain with them always. The divine mission entrusted by Jesus to them “will continue to the end of time, since the Gospel they handed on is the lasting source of all life for the Church. Therefore, . . . the apostles took care to appoint successors.”


Hopefully, now, we have a better idea who these guys were.

So this week, let us realize that not all of us can be in that “inner-circle.”  Not all are called to be a Peter, James or John. Jesus called all twelve to be faithful and to serve Him, whether heaped with accolades or not. May we be faithful in the same way these seemingly “lesser” apostles were, in the obscurity of our everyday lives, may we say “yes” to Jesus’ call to Follow Me.



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