By RAYMOND DE SOUZA
God chose the men who were going to minister in His Temple, the Levites. They did not choose God. It was a calling, not a human right.
God loved all twelve tribes of Israel, but only one received the privilege to be the cradle of the Messias. What did the tribe of Judah do to deserve that? Nothing. God freely chose it.
The tribe of Judah is mentioned other times to indicate its uniqueness in God’s sight. For instance: After the schism following the death of Solomon, “There as none that followed the house of David, but the tribe of Judah only” (1 Kings 12:20).
“Therefore the Lord was very angry with Israel, and removed them out of His sight: None was left but the tribe of Judah only” (2 Kings 17:18). “It is evident that Our Lord was descended from Judah” (Heb. 7:14). “The Lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David, has conquered” (Apoc. 5:5).
There were many households in the tribe of Judah, but God freely chose the household of David, to rule the people from the royal throne. All other families were excluded. There was no democracy, no society of equals.
Likewise, there were many virgins in the family of David, but God chose Mary, long before she was even able to deserve anything. A great privilege. God chose her before she could choose God. There was no public competition among the unmarried girls to find the one most suitable to be the mother of the Messias.
There were also many just men in town to be her spouse. But God chose Joseph, who did not know much about what was going on until the angel spoke to him in a dream.
There were many cities in Judah: But God chose Bethlehem, centuries before Joseph and Mary were even born! “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me the one who is to be the ruler of Israel” (Micah 5:2).
Micah did not run a public opinion survey to find out which town would be most suitable to be the one where Jesus would be born.
Did Bethlehem deserve such a privilege? Just look at the cold-shoulder treatment the Holy Family received there! But it was God’s choice, without any consultation of the people.
Who were called to worship Him at the stable? Both classes of society: the rich and the poor, the kings and the shepherds. No society of equals at the Nativity scene. How were they called? The shepherds, who were Israelites, an angel came to them: a spiritual sign, which they could identify with their understanding of the faith. The kings, who were pagan, saw a star, a material, natural sign, which they could identify with their understanding of the stars.
In the New Testament, Jesus came not to destroy, but to fulfill. The parable of the workers of the eleventh hour (Matt. 20) and the parable of the talents (Matt. 25) show how God does not distribute His gifts equally to everybody, but gives to each one according to his ability.
Israel was the people of God in the Old Testament. The Catholic Church is the people of God in the New Testament — “The Israel of God,” as St. Paul calls her (Gal. 6:16). That is why Henry Graham, a convert from Presbyterianism, wrote in his book Where We Got the Bible — Our Debt to the Catholic Church, that if Judaism is a caterpillar, and the Church is the butterfly. . . .
So, if in the caterpillar, only men were priests, what about in the butterfly? We know that Jesus came not to destroy but to fulfill (Matt. 5:17), so we ask ourselves whether He departed from that original model, and established a “society of equals,” as the feminists claim He did, so that the alleged “society of equals” would constitute a perfection of the old system. Or did He perfect it according to the same model of free calling?
Let us see how He treated different people in different ways, just as His Heavenly Father did in the Old Testament. Let Him have the floor.
“You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit” (John 15:16). Now, there were many disciples following Him (a group of seventy was sent out to announce His arrival), but He chose only twelve to be His apostles, not all seventy (Luke 6:13; Mark 3:13; Luke 10:1). He could have called all seventy in order to match the number of book of the Bible used at the time, the Septuagint. But He did not.
Which apostles had such a great faith that Jesus praised them in public? No one. But He publicly praised the faith of the Roman centurion (Matt. 8:10). He praised the uprightness of Nathaniel, but not of the others. On the Transfiguration Day on Mount Tabor, did He take all twelve to contemplate the divine light that issued from Him?
No. He took only three, and they did nothing in particular to deserve that incredible privilege. The same choice was repeated after the Last Supper, in Gethsemane. He changed the name of Simon to Peter, but nobody else’s. Only John was allowed to rest his head on Jesus’ chest, the others did not line up to have their turn. He loved all twelve, but only John is referred to as the one “whom Jesus loved.”
He sent the Holy Spirit over all of them on Pentecost, but they received different gifts from that same Spirit. For instance, only St. Matthew and St. John were inspired to write Gospels. The others were not. St. Mark was a disciple, and St. Luke never saw Jesus in the flesh. Only five apostles were inspired to write epistles, the others were not. Not a single woman disciple was called to write anything, not even His own Mother.
The first one to be an apostle was St. Andrew, but the one called to be the first among the apostles was St. Peter, his brother. Only St. Peter received the keys of the Kingdom, walked on water, and went out to catch a fish in whose mouth there was money to pay the Temple tax.
Jesus gave His Mother to St. John, the youngest of the lot, and not to St. Peter, the visible head of His Church. He invited only Thomas to touch His wounds: The others were not offered a turn.
The twelve apostles chose to ordain seven deacons, all men (Acts 6) to serve the people, while they, the apostles, did the preaching.
Conclusion: Those who think that the early Church was a “society of equals” are indulging in an exercise of make-believe. They created a legend, a historical myth that never existed.
Next article: Understanding the Catholic priesthood.
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Raymond de Souza is director of the Evangelization and Apologetics Office of the Winona Diocese, Minn.; EWTN program host; regional coordinator for Portuguese-speaking countries for Human Life International (HLI); president of the Sacred Heart Institute, and a member of the Sovereign, Military, and Hospitaller Order of the Knights of Malta. Web site: www.RaymonddeSouza.com.