Feast of Saints Simon and Jude, Apostles
[Scripture Readings: Eph. 2: 19-22; Lk. 6: 12-16]
One of the tensions we live with is the inescapable tension in time. We may not pay that much attention to it, but it is still there. We live in the present, of course, but we may not be aware when mentally we drift out of the present and try to live in the past or in the future. Some of us have a temperamental attraction for the past. This may be because of an interest in history, or it may be nostalgia for better times that we remember. Conversely, some of us have a temperamental orientation toward the future. We may want to plan prudently for what may be coming up in our lives; or out of dissatisfaction with our present situation, we may want to imagine a better life. I submit that all three dimensions of time effect how we go about our activities from day to day. Yes, we live in the present; but simultaneously we live out of the past and toward the future. If we don’t know where we have come from, we will have at best an inadequate knowledge of where we are now. If we don’t know where we are going, we will drift aimlessly toward whatever strikes our fancy at a given time.
This is characteristic not only of the secular dimension of our lives, but also of the religious dimension. There are any number of religious cheerleaders around shouting rah, rah for this or that cause or movement. How are we to sort out a responsible path to follow? What is God’s will for me in this particular situation? The first thing to realize is that faith is not my accomplishment, so that I am free to follow whatever combination of religious truths and elements of spirituality that appeals to me. Our faith is founded on the faith of the apostles and has been handed down to us through the centuries. The good news of God revealed in Jesus Christ is the center of our faith from which everything else takes its meaning. Yes, our religion has developed through the centuries. But the unifying force in that development is and always has been to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ in the changing times and cultures throughout the world and down through the centuries.
While we have a responsibility to the generations of Christians that have preceded us and from whom we have received our faith, we also have a responsibility to faithfully hand on our religious tradition to those who will come after us. We can only do this under the guidance of the Holy Spirit who will show us how to express the good news in words and behavior that our contemporaries can understand.
We know very little about Ss. Simon and Jude in comparison with Peter and Paul and John and the other apostles that are more prominent in the New Testament. We do know that Jesus chose them after prayer to be his companions and sent them out to proclaim the gospel. Their relative anonymity can be an encouragement for us. Each one of us has been chosen by Jesus Christ to live in his Spirit and to bring the good news of his salvation to those God brings into our lives. Compared to roles others have in the life and mission of the Church, our part may seem small and insignificant. But the importance of our activities lies in the fact that we have been chosen by Christ and given a share in his work for the salvation of the world; not in how we or anyone else may judge it. The significance of our work will only become visible when the fullness of the kingdom of God is realized. If I understand the New Testament correctly, at that time there will be many surprises in regard to what has been important.
Encouraged by the lives of Ss. Simon and Jude and grateful for the faith they have handed on to us let us continue on the path of discipleship strengthened in faith, hope and love, trusting that the Holy Spirit will bring our work to fulfillment.
Feast of Saints Simon and Jude, Apostles
[Scripture Readings: Eph. 2: 19-22; Lk. 6: 12-16 ]
To state the obvious, Sts. Simon and Jude are not among the more prominent apostles. Even after adding oral tradition to the gospels we know very little about them other than the fact that they were called by Jesus. Simon is given the surname “the Zealot,” but it is not at all clear what this meant at the time of Jesus. He was probably in someway involved in opposition to the Roman occupation of Palestine, but it would go beyond the evidence to say he was a revolutionary or a resistance fighter. A New Testament epistle is attributed to Jude, but this Jude is probably not Jude the apostle, but Jude the brother of the Lord, who was not an apostle. We can reasonably ask, then why are we gathered here this morning to celebrate their memory? I think the answer to this question lies in the little that we do know about them.
In the first place they were called by Jesus to their ministry. They didn’t just happen to be around when Jesus was choosing some disciples to represent the twelve tribes of Israel. And Jesus did not choose the twelve from those disciples who happened to be around at the time. Luke tells us that he spent the night in prayer before selecting the twelve apostles, and that he called his disciples together from whom he made his choice. Jesus’ choice was deliberate, even though we don’t know the motivation behind it. I think we can take encouragement from this. How many of us are prominent outside our immediate circle of friends and acquaintances? Even there we may not have a position of special importance beyond their friendship and acceptance. Yet, each one of us has been called by Jesus, and each one of us has been given a share in proclaiming the gospel to those we meet.
A definition of Catholicism that I heard attributed to James Joyce is: “Here comes everybody!” I don’t think Joyce meant that as a compliment. It is more likely that he was critical of the lack of discrimination in the church’s acceptance of members. Yet, it is the same lack of discrimination for which the scribes and Pharisees criticized Jesus. It wasn’t just that Jesus associated with Galilean fishermen. He was willing to eat with tax collectors and those who were lax in the practices of Judaism. He was willing to talk with a Samaritan woman of questionable morals, which no observant Jew would do. Among his inner circle of disciples there was Simon, who in someway opposed the Roman occupation of Israel; and there was Matthew, who as a tax collector cooperated with the Roman authorities. I wonder how those two got along!
Again, I think this can be a source of encouragement for us. Whether we think of our communities, our parishes or those of us gathered together this morning, we are not a homogeneous group of people. We come from different backgrounds and different age groups. I have no doubt that we hold different opinions on a variety of topics. What unites us is Jesus’ call to follow him and our response. With all our differences the Holy Spirit is transforming us from strangers into brothers and sisters so that God can dwell among us.
What we are celebrating this morning, and what we celebrate on all the feasts of the saints is God’s generous compassion and forgiveness. Let us respond with gratitude and acceptance of one another and of all our brothers and sisters.
Feast of Saints Simon and Jude, Apostles
[Scripture Readings: Eph 2:19-22; Lk 6:12-16]
In the class currently under way in the Juniorate, on Emotional Literacy, we recently looked at a case study describing a certain religious sister, “Suzie” by name, who, it seems, was causing her superior and other members of her community to panic by appealing to them repeatedly with the words: “I just want us – to be friends.” Why the panic? It seems her sisters recognized that Suzie’s motive for making friends was her desperate hope that they might convince her she had any value at all as a person. It wasn’t that her sisters didn’t want to be friends, but Suzie’s reaching out to others inevitably involved someone taking on the huge responsibility of investing Suzie with a sense of self-worth. The typical response to such an offer of friendship, not surprisingly – was a feeling of panic.
St. Aelred, in his famous book on friendship, speaks of the many and varied motives people have for making friends. Thieves form friendships as a defense against their enemies who are trying to maintain law and order. Conspirators, assassins, and embezzlers all value friendship, in the interest of efficiency and in order to provide each other encouragement. Osama Bin Laden has his motives for fostering friendships. George Bush and John Kerry have different motives, but no less desire to make friends.
In Simon and Jude, whose feast we celebrate this morning, we have two men who Jesus made his close friends; among the twelve very special handpicked friends whom the Lord “drew to himself”, after a whole night spent in prayer, and it might be interesting to ask ourselves: What were Jesus’ own motives for making friends? What did the Lord Himself hope to find in a friendship? An interesting insight into that question, might be found in the fact that, in the gospel passage immediately preceding the selection of the twelve, the Jewish leaders are plotting to kill Jesus. This invites some interesting reflection. Jesus is aware that, very soon, he is going to die. At just about the same time he realizes this, he draws to himself twelve of his most cherished friends. And for what purpose?
In the hope that these friends will become – his followers. But, Jesus is about to die . . . Does this mean Jesus’ motive for making friends, is the hope that he will have someone to share with him the experience of death? That idea may strike us as repugnant, and yet, Simon, Jude, and nearly all the twelve who became Jesus’ followers, did in fact follow Him to a violent death. But, while granting that death was the actual outcome for the apostles from their friendship with Jesus, the question remains: “What was Jesus’ own motive for making these men his friends?”
That Jesus truly loved these men is evident from his preaching, and teaching, the miracles he worked; the wisdom he shared with them in parables. The question arises: Could love have been the motive for Jesus calling these men to follow him to death? Can love for one’s friend be reconciled with issuing to him a call to die?
The call to love is a call to be united with the beloved, and at the point the beloved is about to die, then to be united means to die with the beloved. But if Simon, Jude and others were united to Jesus in death, they were united with him also three days later, when he rose victoriously triumphant over death, and it is here, in the splendor of Easter morning, that Jesus’ true motive for making friends becomes evident: It is was His hope that when, after his resurrection, the song was sung: “Oh death, where is your sting?” the whole world would sing in response: “Jesus and his friends — those thieves, took it away!”