Feast of the Apostles Simon and Jude
[Scripture Readings: Eph 2:19-22, Lk 6:12-16]
Very little is known about Saints Simon and Jude. Jude was also known as Thaddeus. Jude Thaddeus is known as the saint to appeal to for “impossible causes.” This is thought to be because his name reminded people of Judas Iscariot. Thus one would pray to all the other saints for intercession and, when desperate, he was the saint of last resort.
What is most important about Simon and Jude is that they were martyrs. They knew what they were about; they had integrity.
The last verse of the prologue of the Rule of St. Benedict, verse 50, calls us to martyrdom — or better put, to integrity—to giving our lives for the sake of something greater. Integrity is a better word because we do this not by shedding blood, but by “preferring.” A martyr—a person of integrity—is a witness and this witness is manifested by what he prefers and the circumstances under which he prefers it. He stands for something.
A principal manifestation of preference is perseverance. A monk is called to “prefer nothing whatever to Christ” and to persevere at that “in the monastery until death.” Verse 50 of the Prologue says the monk does this by “patiently sharing in the sufferings of Christ.” Those sufferings are the “letting be” of His single-minded, single-hearted devotion to the Father and putting up with whatever opposes it. In preferring Christ and in sharing in His sufferings, the monk is doing something personal and private: he is standing by his deepest convictions; the ones that brought him to New Melleray. Part of integrity, then, is standing by principles that tell a man what he is and is not.
The other part of integrity—the part that makes the saints worth remembering—is that the man or woman of integrity stands for something. This tells others what he is and is not. He takes a stand for and before a community of people who are deliberating about what is worth doing. Our Holy Rule tells us what is worth doing. It is for each monk to stand by the Rule by making its teachings his deepest conviction. And it is for each monk to stand for the Rule as a witness to newcomers, brothers, and visitors that one’s way-of-life matters. Benedict says we live out this integrity by patience and perseverance.
Patience and perseverance are powers. They are given by the Holy Spirit specifically for the purpose of going to the Father. We open ourselves to these powers by our vow of stability. Michael Casey says “stability is the result of an enduring act of the will giving assent to God’s grace.” Integrity is that enduring act of the will. It is a result of making a “high quality choice.” That choice comes from a formation program that affords counsel, reflection, and discernment in a community that models integrity.
Integrity requires security. Security comes from a willingness to suffer; a willingness to suffer comes from a great love. Before we decide to vow our life to this—to stand by something and for something—we must decide, with Simon and Jude, that there is a reality worth loving with this kind of extravagance.
Feast of the Apostles Simon and Jude
[Scripture Readings: Eph. 2: 19-22; Lk. 6: 12-16]
When thinking about the apostles I doubt that the names of Ss. Simon and Jude would be the first to come to mind for very many if any of us. Even after adding oral tradition to the gospels we know very little about them other than the fact that they were called by Jesus to be apostles. Simon is given the surname “the Zealot”, but it is not at all clear what this meant at the time of Jesus. He may have been 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. The designation may not even refer to politics. A New Testament epistle is attributed to Jude, but there are at least two other Jude’s mentioned in the New Testament and the name would have been fairly common in first century Judaism. 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.
They were called by Jesus to be apostles. They didn’t just happen to be around when Jesus was choosing some disciples to be his apostles; and Jesus did not choose the twelve from those disciples who happened to be around at the time. Jesus spent the night in prayer before selecting the twelve apostles, and he called his disciples together from whom he made his choice. Jesus’ choice was deliberate, even though we do not know the motivation behind it. I think we can take encouragement from this. How many of us are well known outside our communities and our families and our circle of friends and acquaintances? Even here we may not have a position of special importance. Yet, each one of us has been called by Christ, and each one of us has been given a share in proclaiming the gospel to those we meet.
In this morning’s first reading St. Paul tells the Ephesians that they are being built up into a temple, a dwelling place for God in the Spirit. A building is a complex structure and is made up of a variety of components. Some are prominent; some are unseen. It would be a mistake to think that the unseen components are unimportant, although we will be more likely to focus our attention on the prominent features of a building. When it comes to prominence most of us have more in common with Ss. Simon and Jude than we do with the better known disciples. It would be a mistake to fall victim to a false humility and think that we are unimportant because of that. Earlier in the letter to the Ephesians St. Paul states that we were chosen by God in Christ before the foundation of the world. Whatever the superficial appearances, we didn’t just stumble into our lives. God has chosen us and he has chosen us for his purpose.
Each of us has been entrusted with a share in the Church’s mission of announcing the coming of the kingdom of God into the world and to some extent making it present in our life situations. The final 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. Until that final revelation we do not know how our individual contributions will fit into God’s plan. Our task now is to accept with gratitude the work we have been given, and in faith and hope follow the Holy Spirit’s guidance in fulfilling our service.