Feast of Saints Simon and Jude

[Scripture Readings: REFERENCES]

A not unusual response to being chosen for some special task is a sense of elation, perhaps accompanied by surprise. This may be followed by a feeling of apprehension, if we think that we are being called to the limits, or even beyond the limits of our ability. We may experience annoyance, if we think we are being imposed upon by the request. These reactions also apply to the realization that we are being called by God. The positive reactions are easy enough to understand. We might be less inclined to admit our negative reactions. But it doesn’t take a profound knowledge of the New Testament and the lives of the saints to know that a call from God is a call to the imitation of Christ, and to participate in Christ’s dying and rising. The rising is the basis for our elation; the dying is the basis for our apprehension.

All we know from the New Testament about Ss. Simon and Jude are their names and that they were called by Jesus to be apostles. Later tradition adds some information about where they preached the gospel and their eventual martyrdom. I think this lack of information allows us to see that the call of the apostles to follow Christ is also a model for our own calls in a way that the calls of Peter or Paul or the better known apostles might not be. There will always be some who are called to exceptional and prominent roles in spreading the kingdom of God; but for most of us our call to follow Christ and witness to the coming of the God’s kingdom is fulfilled in the ordinary and unexceptional circumstances of our daily lives.

The foundation and the goal of every vocation is the call to be united with Christ and all who are members of his body. I think this realization is a check on simply transferring current ideas about status and prestige to what it means to follow Christ. As members of Christ we are all making a contribution to building up Christ’s body here and now. Significant and even necessary contributions are not necessarily the most observable. The revelation of what the kingdom of God will be lies hidden in God’s designs, and will be revealed only at the final coming of Christ. Without that final revelation we simply don’t know how our individual contributions fit in. We do know that a call to follow Christ in humble and ordinary circumstances and a call to follow him in exceptional achievements both require faith; and faith is God’s gift not our achievement. Our part is to accept Christ’s call to follow him with generous hearts, trusting that he will equip us for whatever tasks he calls us to and bring our efforts to completion. The sower of the seed and the woman mixing leaven into flour in the gospel parables are two of my favorite models of what it means to follow Christ. As for how significant our contributions will be, we would do well to take to heart Paul’s advice to the Corinthians and not judge anything before the time, before Christ comes; and then praise will be to each one from God.

Feast of Saints Simon and Jude

[Scripture Readings: Eph 2:19-22; Lk 6:12-16 ]

According to tradition the apostles, Simon and Jude, whose feast we are celebrating, preached the Gospel together in Persia where they were martyred. Simon, by being sawed in two, and Jude by being hacked to death with a long-handled axe.

Their names are revealing. Jude or Judas, is a variant form of Judah, one of the twelve sons of Jacob, from whom the Messiah was descended. In some manuscripts he is called Thaddeus and in others Lebbeus, both names referring to Aramaic words for the chest and heart, suggesting that Jude Thaddeus was a tenderhearted person, sensitive to the needs and desires of those around him.

Simon is a Hellenized form of the Hebrew name Simeon, another one of the twelve sons of Jacob. Simon was described by Jacob, when he blessed his sons, as a man whose anger was fierce and whose wrath was cruel. Simon lived up to his name, for the Gospels call him the Zealot. Zealots were a Jewish sect representing an extreme of Jewish nationalism that sought to fulfill the ideal of Maccabean independence by means of raiding and killing. They were the equivalent of modern day terrorists, and they were chiefly responsible for the rebellion against Rome which ended in the destruction of Jerusalem in the year 70 AD. But Simon learned from Jesus how to change people through gentleness and love rather than by force and terrorism.

Jude Thaddeus is responsible for asking a question at the Last Supper which prompted a profound teaching of Jesus on the blessed Trinity and on participation of the Christian in God’s own life, God’s own nature. He asked, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” Jesus replied, “If someone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. … The Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.Jn. 14:22-26. Thaddeus came to understand that Jesus would reveal himself to the world not directly, but through the apostles, through those who love him. Like all the saints, Jude Thaddeus became a missionary of what the world considers impossible: participation of human beings in the divine life of God, in the kingdom of God. So it is fitting that he is the patron of hopeless cases. For Christians there is no such thing as hopelessness. We are people of faith, hope, and charity. There is only one place where hopelessness exists, and that is hell. The gentle, large hearted apostle, Jude Thaddeus, lived out the message that for those who love God all things are possible, even participation in divine life.

In the legend of the passion and death of these two apostles, they meet up with opposition from the magicians of Persia. The captain of the king of Babylon’s army consulted his wise men about the outcome of a battle that was approaching. They told him that his army would be scattered, but Simon and Thaddeus said legates would come the next morning to bow down and ask for peace. And so the impossible happened as they foretold. The captain’s soothsayers were so inflamed with envy and rage at the apostles that they conspired with sorcerers of another city to put them to death. Forewarned by an angel of the danger, these two apostles chose to suffer martyrdom to bring about the conversion of those adversaries, rather than resist them. They accomplished the impossible by their love, dying for their enemies.

That is the way Jesus taught us by his own passion and death in which we share by this Eucharist. May the intercession of Saints Simon and Jude Thaddeus help us to become more loving persons as we partake of the body and blood of Christ, who shares his divinity with us.