In the rock opera, Jesus Christ Superstar, the apostles anachronistically sing, “Always hoped that I’d be an apostle. Knew that I could make it if I tried..” It is probably also a wishful thought of many a dreamy Christian who in Don Quixote fashion imagines being a modern apostle or who imagines having themselves been chosen by Christ to be part of that original inner circle of the Twelve – if they had only been born at the right time. Of course looking at icons of the glorious apostles we might mistakenly imagine they lived a heavenly and favored life on earth. But by all accounts their lives were difficult and most of them met violent deaths after a life time of self-sacrifice in service to the Lord.
We who have chosen to follow Christ need to remind ourselves of St. Paul‘s famous description of what it meant to him to be a chosen apostle:
“Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I have received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I have been beaten with rods; once I was stoned. Three times I have been shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brethren; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure upon me of my anxiety for all the churches.” (2 Corinthians 11:23-28)
Following Christ requires courage and perseverance. Being a Christian is not about living a prosperous life filled with ego gratification. As. St. John Chrysostom says we are most like the apostles when we experience poverty and suffering.
“When you find yourself penniless and hungry, subject to a thousand dangers, remember that the Apostles, prophets and patriarchs – the just men – all lived in hunger, thirst and nakedness. They were not to be counted among the rich and comfortable, but among the poor, the afflicted, the distressed.” (St. John Chrysostom, Afflictions of Man, p. 9)