Sometimes I wonder what the Lord was looking for in the twelve men whom he called to be his apostles. When you go over the criteria that the Lord laid out for these men who would surround him, the quality of a good apostle that stands out is that of enthusiasm. Take for instance the apostle Peter.
Peter, according to psychological tests, was an impulsive man. Being impulsive is actually the excess of being enthusiastic. Indeed, Peter was very enthusiastic, albeit excessively so. But he was called by God, I believe, precisely because of his enthusiasm.
Another disciple that is a picture of enthusiasm is Mary of Bethany. She also was very enthusiastic because she poured aromatic nards and perfume and oil on the feet of our Lord. The oil that she used was very expensive so much so that Judas commented that it should have been given to the poor instead. Mary of Bethany was truly so enthusiastically in love with Jesus.
Remember James and John? The Lord said to these brothers, “You are sons of thunder because you are very enthusiastic you want to rain down fire and brimstone on those who do not follow me.” Yes, they too, were enthusiastic.
Another example of enthusiasm is Philip in the Gospel. Philip saw Jesus, and in his great enthusiasm, he went to Nathaniel (who is also Bartholomew) and proclaimed, “We have seen the Messiah!” And, of course, Nathaniel was another enthusiastic disciple. As a sign of his enthusiasm, the Lord told him, “I saw you under the fig tree.”
Incidentally, what the Lord meant was not a literal way of seeing somebody under the fig tree. The fig tree is actually symbolic of somebody who studies the law. Because the fig tree has so many branches, it has so many leaves suggesting that the tree has so much shade. And underneath the shade of the fig tree is the place where the lawyers study their lessons. So, if you are a lawyer, it is said and known that you study under the fig tree because the shade of the fig tree is so wide.
So it is not just the fig tree but that the Lord was saying “I saw you under the fig tree.” What he must have actually meant was ” know you are so much interested in the Law. I know that you are to much interested in the prophets. I know tat you are so much interested in the Word of God. I know you. You are enthusiastic.” The Lord needed disciples and apostles who were enthusiastic to follow him. The Lord continues to need enthusiastic men and women to carry on his work in the 20th century in the world.
Then we must ask ourselves, “do we have enough enthusiasm?” As I have told you time and again, a sad Christian is a very bad Christian. Sometimes, when I give you Communion, I wonder whether you are really enthusiastic, or afraid, or ashamed. Some of you, as you fall in line to receive Holy Communion, look much too serious, as if you are about to face the firing squad at the Luneta. On the other hand, other communicants are really so enthusiastic, they wink at me, before they receive the Sacred Host. I tell you that is not enthusiasm and I, particularly, do not find it cute. So please refrain from doing this.
But the lesson is still there. We are all being asked to be enthusiastic Christians. We are being asked to be fervent and ardent Christians precisely because a cold Christian, a lukewarm Christian, is a second class Christian. You must ask yourselves, do have enough enthusiasm for me to qualify as a good disciple?”
Only Jesus, Always Jesus