St Simon and St Jude, Apostles

In Uncategorized on October 28, 2009 at 12:44 am

There was an ad on NZ TV not so long ago.

A man in a long coat,
slightly Nordic features, of indeterminate age,
walks purposely along, speaking directly to the audience.
Commenting insightfully on our national identity
and what it is we will and will not tolerate.
He – Harvey Keitel – walks into a bar,
and proceeds to take possession of a particular brand of beer.
The hook being, “What you say no to always defines you.”

For at least one of our dual Apostles this morning, that’s just a bit sad.

St Jude, famously the patron saint of “lost causes”, of last resort,
due to the tenor of the Letter that bears his name,
and because of his name itself,
is only know to us as an Apostle in the New Testament as
“Judas, not Iscariot”, plus as “son of James”.
Little wonder that Thomas Hardy chose to title a namesake “Jude the Obscure”.

“Judas, not Iscariot”
To be known simply by what you say no to, what you are not,
doesn’t make for great hagiography.

Simon the Zealot, similarly, has little known about him,
except that his title may link him with a former life as a fundamentalist,
as a freedom fighter, or a terrorist,
depending on whether you were Jewish or Roman.
He’s sometimes called ‘Simon the Canaanite’
because the Hebrew term qana meaning ‘zealous’
had been transliterated in that way.

Both, for all we know not of them, were Apostles.
Both were martyrs.
Both connect us,
through the laying on of hands in confirmation and ordination
with the companions of Jesus himself.
With his touch and presence, his life, death and resurrection.
Both speak of the passion and commitment
that faith in Christ allows us to touch ourselves.

A Church Times columnist says:
The Church does not celebrate celebrities.
It celebrates saints.
The distinction is an important one.
The lives of celebrities are public exhibitions.
The notion of a hidden celebrity is a nonsense.
It is otherwise with the saints.

We may know a lot about some saints,
but about most we know little or nothing.
And none of that great company — not Simon, not Jude —
would have it otherwise.
We honour them for their very hiddenness.

Of course,
while the New Testament does not supply us with great detail,
the Tradition, as well as the stories and legends of the Church
offer a number of accounts of these Apostles’ lives.

For Simon, the most widespread tradition is that after evangelizing in Egypt,
he joined Jude in Persia and Armenia,
where both were martyred about the year 65.
In art, Simon has the identifying attribute of a saw
due to the manner of his death, and is patron saint of related trades.

For Jude, a common Roman Catholic prayer runs:
“Most holy apostle, St. Jude Thaddeus, faithful servant and friend of Jesus,
the name of the traitor has caused you to be forgotten by many.
But the Church honours and invokes you universally … Pray for me.”

We keep the days of Saints as an encouragement,
as a celebration, and as a reminder
that we are part of a family of faith, of prayer, intercession and hope
that is beyond ourselves,
beyond what we can see or touch,  what we can know or define.

We recognise that we are not so very different
to the faith-filled figures we commemorate.

St Simon and St Jude remind us that God has taken
the zealous, impetuous, violently affronted revolutionary
and the quiet figure whose shame it was to share a name with one despised,
and through their prayer and preaching,
their searching and their sacrifice
has built with solid foundation the living temple of the Church
of which we are the latest storey.
Built for the glory of God
and the proclamation of Good News.

Not to our own aggrandisement.
Some of the most remarkable bits of great buildings are the ones you don’t see.
They are its strength, allow its shape to be seen.

Saints, not of causes lost, perhaps,
but more of selfless, un-remarked-upon construction,
simple, unembellished, extra-ordinary folk,
in whose company it is our privilege to share,
and build
“upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets,
with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone.
In him the whole structure is joined together and grows
into a holy temple in the Lord;
in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling-place for God.”


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