Sunday, 28 October 2018

How Simon and Jude ‘contend
for the faith that was once
for all entrusted to the saints’

‘Christ is our corner-stone’ (Hymn 327) … a cross in a hidden corner among the stones and ruins of Askeaton Friary (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Patrick Comerford

28 October 2018, the Fifth Sunday before Advent (Proper 25).

Saint Simon and Saint Jude, Apostles.


9.30 a.m.: Morning Prayer, Castletown Church, Co Limerick.

Readings: Isaiah 28: 14-16; Psalm 119: 89-96; Ephesians 2: 19-22; John 15: 17-27.

May I speak to you in the name of God, + Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

This morning offers a number of choices. The Gospel reading for the Fifth Sunday before Advent tells the story of Blind Bartimaeus being healed outside the walls of Jericho by Christ on his way to Jerusalem.

This is also being marked in some parish churches as the Bible Sunday, and many of us are familiar with the words of the Collect of the Day:

Blessed Lord,
who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:
Help us to hear them,
to read, mark, learn and inwardly digest them
that, through patience, and the comfort of your holy word,
we may embrace and for ever hold fast
the blessed hope of everlasting life,
which you have given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ.

But this morning, we are celebrating Saint Simon and Saint Jude, Apostles, whose feast day is celebrated in the Church Calendar today.

Many people on our city streets may associate Saint Simon with the homeless and housing crisis in Ireland, and think of Saint Simon as someone cares for the homeless people on our streets. However, the Simon Community takes its name from Simon of Cyrene who helps Christ carry his cross on the way to Calvary and his Crucifixion.

If you asked who Jude is, you might be told he is ‘Obscure’ – or the Patron of Lost Causes.

These two are little known as apostles, without fame, and that obscurity is almost affirmed by the fact that they have to share one feast day and do not have their own separate, stand-alone celebrations in the Calendar of the Church.

In an age obsessed with reality television, the X-Factor, the Apprentice or celebrities who are celebrities – just because they are – Simon and Jude appear like a pair of misfits: we know little about their lives or how they lived them, they are hardly famous among the disciples, and they certainly are not celebrity apostles.

Simon and Jude are way down the list of the Twelve Apostles, and their names are often confused or forgotten. In the New Testament lists of the Twelve (Matthew 10: 2-4; Mark 3: 16-19; Luke 6: 14-16; Acts 1: 13), they come in near the end, in tenth and eleventh places. Well, with Judas in twelfth place, they just about make it onto the ‘first eleven.’

The ninth name on the lists is James, the James who was remembered last Wednesday [23 October]. Judas or Jude is often referred to as ‘the brother of James,’ and this in turn leads to him being identified with the ‘brothers of the Lord.‘ So, on this day, we celebrate Simon the Zealot, one of the original Twelve; and Jude or Judas of James, also one of the Twelve and author of the Epistle of Jude.

But poor Simon is not mentioned by name in the New Testament except on these lists – after all, there is a better-known Simon than this Simon: there is Simon Peter. As for Jude, his name is so close to Judas – in fact, their names are the same (Ιούδας) – is it any wonder that he became known as the patron saint of lost causes? Trying to remember him might have been a lost cause.

After the Last Supper, Jude asked Christ why he chose to reveal himself only to the disciples, and received the reply: ‘Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to them and make our home with them’ (John 14: 22-23).

In his brief Epistle, Jude says he planned to write a different letter, but then heard of the misleading views of some false teachers. He makes a passionate plea to his readers to preserve the purity of the Christian faith and their good reputation.

His Epistle includes a memorable exhortation to ‘contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints’ (Jude 3), and ends with that wonderful closing: ‘Now to him who is able to keep you from falling, and to make you stand without blemish in the presence of his glory with rejoicing, to the only wise God our Saviour, be glory, majesty, power, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen’ (Jude 24-25).

But after that, surprisingly, we know very little about the later apostolic missions of Simon and Jude, where they were missionaries or whether they were martyred.

In truth, we know very little about these two saints, bundled together at the end of a list, like two hopeless causes. There was no danger of them being servants who might want to be greater than their master (John 15: 20). All we can presume is that they laboured on, perhaps anonymously, in building up the Church.

But then the Church does not celebrate celebrities who are famous and public; we honour the saints who labour and whose labours are often hidden.

In the Gospel reading (John 15: 17-27), the Apostles are warned about suffering the hatred of ‘the world.’ Later, as the Gospel was spread around the Mediterranean, isolated Christians may not have realised how quickly the Church was growing. In their persecutions and martyrdom, they may have felt forlorn and that Christianity was in danger of being a lost cause.

But in the Gospel reading, Christ encourages a beleaguered Church to see its afflictions and wounds as his own.

No matter how much we suffer, no matter how others may forget us, no matter how obscure we become, no matter how many people forget our names, no matter how often our faith and discipleship may appear to others to be lost causes, no matter how small our congregations may be, not matter how often we feel our parishes are isolated or even forgotten, we can be assured that we are no longer strangers and aliens, that we are citizens with the saints.

As Saint Paul reminds us in this morning’s Epistle reading, we are building up the household of God upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ himself as the cornerstone, and we are being built together spiritually into the dwelling place of God (Ephesians 2: 19-22).

And so, may all we think, say and do be to the praise, honour and glory of God, + Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

Saint Simon … a stained-glass window in the Church of Saint John the Baptist, Clontarf (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

John 15: 17-27 (NRSV):

[Jesus said:] 17 ‘I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.

18 ‘If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me before it hated you.19 If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. Because you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world – therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you, “Servants are not greater than their master.” If they persecuted me, they will persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also. 21 But they will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Whoever hates me hates my Father also. 24 If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not have sin. But now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. 25 It was to fulfil the word that is written in their law, “They hated me without a cause.”

26 ‘When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf. 27 You also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning.

Saint Jude … a stained glass window in the Church of Saint John the Baptist, Clontarf (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Liturgical Colour: Red.

Collect:

Almighty God, who built your Church upon the foundation
of the apostles and prophets
with Jesus Christ himself as the chief cornerstone:
So join us together in unity of spirit by their doctrine
that we may be made a holy temple acceptable to you;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Collect (Fifth Sunday before Advent):

Blessed Lord,
who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:
Help us to hear them,
to read, mark, learn and inwardly digest them
that, through patience, and the comfort of your holy word,
we may embrace and for ever hold fast
the blessed hope of everlasting life,
which you have given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ.

Introduction to the Peace:

We are fellow citizens with the saints
and the household of God,
through Christ our Lord,
who came and preached peace to those who were far off
and those who were near (Ephesians 2: 19, 17).

The Blessing:

God give you grace
to share the inheritance of all Saint Simon and Saint Jude
and of his saints in glory ...

Hymns:

327, Christ is our corner-stone (CD 20)
528, The Church’s one foundation (CD 30)
459, For all the saints, who from their labours rest (CD 27)

‘Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning’ (the Collect) … pages from Saint John’s Gospel, the first complete hand-written and illuminated Bible since the Renaissance, in a recent exhibition in Lichfield Cathedral; Sunday may also be marked as Bible Sunday (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

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