The Feast of Saints Simon and Jude
[Scripture Readings: Eph 2:19-22, Lk 6:12-16]
Four days ago we saw the arrest of a man who, for about three weeks, went on a killing spree in the suburbs of Washington D.C.; shooting men, women, and children; in parks, at gas stations, and on the street, as they went about their daily routines; his distinctive trademark being a completely random selection of his victims. In a bizarre gesture, which would seem to account for the randomness of the murders, the killer informed local police – that he was God.
With the end of the shootings, and the man responsible safely behind bars, we’re all breathing a little easier. And yet our full recovery from this tragedy will be gradual, because this particular killer was not content to kill our bodies, but did violence also to our spirits, by attributing to God a string of violent deaths. The dirty little thought that maybe, just maybe, God was ultimately responsible for the random killing of ten people, has been insinuated into our consciousness and lingers there like an infection. Our recovery from this more subtle and insidious form of violence may take some time.
How interesting, in light of this, that the gospel for this morning tells the story of a man who two thousand years ago in Palestine, introduced himself to local authorities as God, and who one day, encountering a crowd of people, randomly selected twelve men, among whom, eleven would die a violent death, including today’s saints: Simon and Jude. And who were Simon and Jude? The last two names on the list of those destined to die: unremarkable men, about whom we know virtually nothing; going about their daily routines; whose only claim to fame is that one day they encountered a man purporting to be God, who singled them out, and called them to a violent death.
The resemblance between life and this morning’s gospel is apparent enough, and I don’t believe it’s an accident. I believe our Father in heaven, aware of the turmoil His children are experiencing on earth, is trying to reach us with a word of consolation, and that if you listen to this morning’s gospel with faith, you may hear God saying to you: “My beloved children, do not be distressed because you hear my name maligned by a killer, but take to heart the life-giving word offered you in this morning’s gospel. Remember – God did once walk among you as a man, the man Jesus Christ, and this man truly was – God, and as God did indeed possess all power over life and death. And remember that as the man who truly was God, Jesus caused no one to die, but instead graciously took death – upon himself, out of love for every living person, and by so doing, abolished death, proving once and for all time, that love is stronger than death. And consider that those whom the God-man apparently randomly selected to die, among whom were Simon and Jude, are not remembered as “victims”, but this morning are celebrated by the whole world as apostles; heralds of the good news that in my Son’s sacrifice, death was destroyed; a victory they imitated by their martyrdom. And so, on this day, as you celebrate their victory, do not be afraid of anything. Rejoice in the promise I made you in the beginning: that the children I created in love I will always love, and protect, and prosper, because my desire is that all should share in my glory, the murderers and the murdered, on that happy day when every tear will be wiped away, and all my children will return to me cleansed of their sins, and raised in triumph to life everlasting.”