Today the Church celebrates the feast of Saints Simon and Jude, Apostles. The names of Simon and Jude appear in the list of the 12 Apostles mentioned in the passage from Luke’s Gospel that we have just heard.
There are 2 Apostles named Simon. The 1st one is Simon Peter. The one whose feast we are celebrating today is Simon the Zealot. “Zealot” is a word used to describe a positive quality that Simon possessed. He had a great enthusiasm and strong passion for Jewish law or Jesus’ teachings.
There are 2 Apostles named Judas. The 1st one is Judas Iscariot. The one whose feast we are celebrating today is Judas, son of James. This 2nd Judas is also referred to as “Jude” or “Thaddeus”.
Little else is known about either Apostle.
However, since they were 2 of the 12 men chosen and called by name by Jesus to follow him, there are some things that we do know with certainty. Jesus’ mission was to spread the word of God and thereby establish the Kingdom of God on this earth. But Jesus could not carry out his mission alone. He needed help. Simon and Jude were 2 of the 12 men selected by Jesus to assist him.
After his Resurrection and prior to his Ascension, Jesus commissioned these same men to continue his work. As such Simon and Jude, would have been important leaders in the life of the early church. Tradition holds that both Apostles suffered a martyr’s death for their faith.
This Gospel is more than a retelling of a distant memory. This passage has meaning and relevance today. Its importance is linked to the word, “apostle”. The word “apostle” means “those who are sent”.
The 1st significance of this feast is that today’s Church leaders, the Bishops, are the direct successors of the Apostles (Capital letter “A”). Thomas Dowd, the newly appointed Bishop of this diocese, is someone who knew someone, who knew someone, who knew someone, who knew 1 of the 12, who knew Jesus Christ. But the Church is more than its leaders. The Church is not just the Pope and the Bishops. We are the people of God; we are the Church.
The 2nd significance of this feast is that, as members of Christ’s Body, we have a responsibility of continuing Jesus’ work on this earth. As a result of our Baptism, we, too, have been sent to carry out Jesus’ mission of bringing about the Kingdom of God in our own time.
What’s the Kingdom of God? Bishop Robert Barron gives this definition: “The Kingdom of God is the way of ordering things born of love – love for God and love of neighbor. Generosity, peace, nonviolence and trust will give rise to a new way of ordering things”. In the context of this definition, we, too, are “apostles” (small letter “a”).
In our humanity and in our sinfulness, we may wonder how God can possibly use us. Just as Jesus knew Simon’s zealous heart and his potential, Jesus knows our abilities and gifts and what we can do for His kingdom. Just as Jesus chose Simon and Jude to be close to him and to become his disciples in the 1st century, Jesus chooses us to be close to him and to become his disciples in Sudbury in the 21st century. Just as Jesus needed Simon and Jude to witness to the values of the Gospel to the people of their day, Jesus needs us to witness to the values of the Gospel to the people we encounter.
This task may seem an overwhelming one. But, all that is necessary is for us to be like Simon – to respond with an enthusiastic and passionate heart that is filled with zeal for Jesus’ teachings. As the 1st Reading reminds us, “Christ Jesus himself is the cornerstone. In Christ the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you are also built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God”.
We do not need to be afraid. Jesus Christ himself will provide us with the necessary courage and strength to complete the mission. As one author on the website Franciscan media wrote: “Holiness does not depend on human merit or effort. It is entirely God’s creation and gift”.
Whenever we hear the word “mission”, the natural tendency is to think of going to a faraway country. However, you and I are being chosen and being sent to be disciples of Jesus in the context of our daily lives: in our homes, schools, offices, and neighborhoods. The values of love of God and love of neighbor as self will only be found in our families, our places of work and recreation and our shopping centers if we bring them there. If we, as baptized Christians, don’t make Christ’s teachings unconditional love, compassion and forgiveness present to our community, who else will?
Today the Risen Christ is giving the same mission to you and to me that he gave to Simon and Jude 2,000 years ago: I am choosing you; I am sending you to spread my Kingdom in this time, in this culture and in this society. We know how Simon and Jude responded. The question is: How will we respond?
As our Eucharist continues, let us ask the Risen Jesus, the cornerstone, for the courage, the strength, the perseverance and the grace to say “yes” and embrace the Mission that he is offering us. Jesus Christ is relying on and depending on our “yes”.
Deacon Roland Muzzatti
October 28, 2020