Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Sts. Simon and Jude Thaddaeus, Apostles and Martyrs

St. Jude Thaddaeus is so named by Luke and Acts. Matthew and Mark call him Thaddaeus. He is not mentioned elsewhere in the Gospels, except, of course, where all the apostles are referred to. Scholars hold that he is not the author of the Letter of Jude. Actually, Jude had the same name as Judas Iscariot. Evidently because of the disgrace of that name, it was shortened to "Jude" in English. Simon is mentioned on all four lists of the apostles. On two of them he is called "the Zealot." The Zealots were a Jewish sect that represented an extreme of Jewish nationalism. For them, the messianic promise of the Old Testament meant that the Jews were to be a free and independent nation. God alone was their king, and any payment of taxes to the Romans — the very domination of the Romans — was a blasphemy against God. No doubt some of the Zealots were the spiritual heirs of the Maccabees, carrying on their ideals of religion and independence. But many were the counterparts of modern terrorists. They raided and killed, attacking both foreigners and "collaborating" Jews. They were chiefly responsible for the rebellion against Rome which ended in the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.

As in the case of all the apostles except for Peter, James and John, we are faced with men who are really unknown, and we are struck by the fact that their holiness is simply taken to be a gift of Christ. He chose some unlikely people: a former Zealot, a former (crooked) tax collector, an impetuous fisherman, two "sons of thunder" and a man named Judas Iscariot. It is a reminder that we cannot receive too often. Holiness does not depend on human merit, culture, personality, effort or achievement. It is entirely God's creation and gift. God needs no Zealots to bring about the kingdom by force. Jude, like all the saints, is the saint of the impossible: only God can create his divine life in human beings. And God wills to do so, for all of us.

"Just as Christ was sent by the Father, so also he sent the apostles, filled with the Holy Spirit. This he did so that, by preaching the gospel to every creature (cf. Mark 16:15), they might proclaim that the Son of God, by his death and resurrection, had freed us from the power of Satan (cf. Acts 26:18) and from death, and brought us into the kingdom of his Father" (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy).

Prayer for the intercession of St. Jude Thaddaeus

Most holy apostle, St. Jude, faithful servant and friend of Jesus, the Church honours and invokes you universally, as the patron of hopeless cases, of things almost despaired of. Pray for me, I am so helpless and alone. Make use I implore you, of that particular privilege given to you, to bring visible and speedy help where help is almost despaired of. Come to my assistance in this great need that I may receive the consolation and help of heaven in all my necessitites, tribulations, and sufferings, particulary - (Here make your request) and that I may praise God with you and all the elect forever. I promise, O blessed St. Jude, to be ever mindful of this great favour, to always honour you as my special and powerful patron, and to gratefully encourage devotion to you. Amen.

The Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke (6.12-16)

Now it came to pass in those days, that He went out to the mountain to pray, and continued all in prayer to God. And when day broke, He summoned His Disciples; and from these He chose twelve (whom he also called Apostles): Simon, whom He named Peter, and his brother Andrew, James and John; Philip and Bartholomew; Matthew and Thomas; James, the son of Alphaeus, and Simon called the Zealot; Jude the brother of James, and Judas Isacariot, who turned traitor.


(Homily by Fr. E.J. Tyler)

Our Gospel reading today is a momentous one in Our Lord's public ministry, which is already well I process and many disciples are following Him. The implacable hostility of the scribes and Pharisees has begun and it will not abate till Our Lord is on the Cross. Our Lord could see the final upshot and He now takes a decisive step, the establishment of the Twelve among His Disciples. They will constitute the foundation of His Church, and a little later from among these Twelve, He would appoint Simon to be the Rock on which the enduring structure will stand. The seriousness of this step is shown in the fact that, as we are told, "Jesus went out to a mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God." He, Divine Son of the Father, spent the whole night in prayer before taking this step. He was contemplating the Church, His creation and praying for its mission in the long history of the world. He was founding a dynasty, a Kingdom that would never end. He had before Him those whom He was about to appoint as its formost officers, its founding generals. He would be with them and with His Church until the end of the age. Bonaparte attempted to found an empire at the beginning of the nineteenth century that would outshine all other empires. Marching on Europe and overwhelming formidable enemies, he installed his family members on various European thrones. But as is the case with earthly kingdoms, it came to its end. In his particular case, it was a rapid and ignoble ruin that left him with nothing. But Christ was establishing the Messianic Kingdom that would last forever and would triumph in complete glory. He knew exactly what was best, and he could not make a mistake. As Saint John points out, He knew what was in a man. He knew His men, and He chose them with great care and decision.
Yet- we might wonder-He chose Judas! I do not of course to Judas, the son of James, whom feast we celebrate today. I refer to Iscariot. Our Gospel passage tells us that "when morning came, He called His Disciples to Him and chose twelve of them, whom He also designated Apostles: Simon (whom He named Peter), his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called the Zealot, Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor."(Saint Luke 6.12-16) Judas turned out so very badly. The inspired authors of the Gospels did not hesitate to include this seemingly embarassing fact that one who lived in such intimacy with Jesus, one who was personally chosen by Our Lord Himself, turned his back on his wondrous Master and betrayed Him. Did Jesus of Nazareth make a serious mistake? Surely he could have chosen instead, say, Matthias, who would, after his ascension into heaven, replace Judas Iscariot as one of the Twelve. We read that Matthias was among the disciples who had been with our Lord from the baptism of John right to his ascension (Acts 1:21-22). Perhaps Matthias had been present among the disciples when from their number our Lord chose Judas. Perhaps Judas had even been near Matthias at the moment of his being chosen. What an honour had come to Judas! Our Lord had made no mistake. Judas was the man intended by God from all eternity to be one of the Twelve. He could have been a great saint, with his day celebrated in the Church’s Liturgical Year till the end of the world - like his namesake Judas the son of James. But he opened his heart to Satan, and Satan carried him off. Imagine the profound concern of Christ as he saw this happening! It is the mystery of sin and we must all of us take notice. St Paul writes in one of his Letters that we have been chosen by God from before the foundation of the world to be in Jesus Christ, holy and full of love in his sight. This is the deliberate choice by God of each of us. But we can fall away if we do not guard our hearts from sin. We can deliberately turn from Christ and, indeed, be damned forever. How is it that God can choose one who, in the event, himself chooses to reject his call? It is the mystery of God creating persons with free will and able to sin.
Let us ponder on that tragic significance of the mention of Judas in the inspired text. He was the traitor. On one occasion two of the Twelve approached Our Lord to ask for places to His right and to His left in His Kindgom. Our Lord countered with a fundamental question. Could they drink His cup? we can, they said. Our Lord proceeded to promise that they would drink His cup. But elsewhere (St. John 6.70), He describes Judas, whom He had deliberately chosen to be His special companion and collaborator. He was, He said, a devil. Let us, each take heed, and every day renew our stand with Jesus, affirming our choice for Him, and our renunciation of sin and satan.

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