Feasts of Saints Simon and Jude
Forum of Major Superiors
We have gathered this morning on the feast of Saints Simon and Jude. In the Gospel just proclaimed, Jesus went up the mountain to pray and there, through the night, was absorbed in prayer. Afterwards, he chose twelve of his disciples to be Apostles, among them, “Simon who was called a Zealot” and “Judas the son of James” – as distinct from “Judas Iscariot who became a traitor”. Perhaps we can observe in passing how the Lord sets a good example for us. All of us face decisions and some of the most challenging are personnel decisions. Like Jesus, we should pray about them and pray deeply.
Truth to tell, we don’t have a lot of biographical information about Simon and Jude. But Tradition has always taught not only that they were Apostles, who were sent forth to proclaim the Gospel, but also that they were martyrs, that is to say, witnesses to the love of Christ and to the truth and beauty of the Gospel they proclaimed. In passing, we might observe that each of us have been called and sent forth as witnesses to the love of Christ and the truth of the Gospel. I’ve heard it said that consecration and mission are really two sides of one coin. Through profession of the evangelical councils of chastity, poverty, and obedience, and through a style of life deeply rooted in the Beatitudes, you are sent forth in an array of ministries that bear witness to Christ and bring the Gospel to margins of society, as Pope Francis urges.
Simon and Jude, it is said, preached the Gospel in Mesopotamia and Persia. We don’t know that for sure but what we do know is that the loved the Lord and were willing to lay down their lives for him. But we might pause for a moment over Simon’s title, “the Zealot”, a title some say is used to distinguish him from Simon Peter. It may also indicate that Simon had belonged to a Jewish nationalist sect bent on overcoming every form of foreign domination. Be that as it may (let us admit it), the title “zealot” makes us squirm. Somehow “zeal” is okay but one’s being a “zealot” is not. It conjures up off-putting intensity and tunnel vision. So what are we to make of Simon’s moniker, “the zealot”? I would suggest we link it to the missionary conversion Pope Francis is calling for. He is asking that we examine the quality of our discipleship and our institutions to see whether they are self-referential or focused on the mission of evangelization. He is not urging us to a counterproductive, dour, reactive discipleship but rather a zeal that is tempered by joy and a joy that brims with zeal. When people see both joy and zeal in us they may just give the Gospel a hearing.
Last but not least, this brings us to the Saint most invoked on this day, viz., St. Jude. In today’s Gospel he is identified as “the son of James” and in other gospels he is called “Thaddeus” to distinguish him from “the traitor”. Somewhere back in the mists of time, perhaps because he shares a name with Judas, St. Jude became the patron saint of hopeless or impossible causes. I, for one, don’t recommend that we contest that tradition and here’s why: When the Apostles were sent forth to preach the Gospel, the changes of success seemed very unlikely. Often, it seems, the chances of our mission succeeding seems equally unlikely, especially when we reflect, not so much on the headwinds of secular culture, but more on our own limitations and sinfulness – and here I speak for myself! Added to that is the stubborn list of intractable problems we all face. I don’t worry so much about things that “go bump in the night” as those things that will stare at me in broad daylight. We all have our list and this is as good a day as any to submit it to St. Jude.
And finally, thank God, we face our own limitations, sinfulness, and intractable problems not as “strangers” and not as lone rangers, but rather as “fellow citizens” and “members of the household of God” – as Pope Francis has reminded us all during this year dedicated to consecrated life. Your experience of God’s household is often centered on the communal life you share in common with your brothers and sisters, a common life of prayer and evangelical simplicity rooted in the life of the Church and in the service of God’s people. Within God’s household (which is usually a bit less than tidy), we need to pray for one another, dialogue with one another and to support one another not only in our needs and problems but also in the challenges of undergoing daily missionary conversion. As we do so, may Sts. Simon and Jude intercede for us!