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Saints This Month - 28 October, SS Simon and Jude

Wednesday, October 28, 2009
It’s hard to know what to make of Simon and Jude, the two Apostles whose feast we celebrate today. Of all the Apostles, these two are probably the least well known. Today’s Gospel - as well as the other Gospel accounts describing the calling of the twelve - seem concerned to identify Simon and Jude, not so much in terms of who they are, but in terms of who they are not. It’s not normal to refer to people in this way, and I can’t help but wonder how the brethren would react if I were to start referring to them as ‘not Robert De Niro’, ‘not Richard the Lionheart’ or ‘not Benjamin Britten’. But that seems to be just the kind of thing that is going on in the Gospel accounts of the naming of the twelve. Luke calls Simon the Zealot, which is probably a reference to his past life as a member of the Jewish sect. But his title might as well be ‘Simon the ordinary one’, because it’s pretty clear that the title “zealot” is only there to distinguish him from Simon Peter, whom we might call ‘Simon, the important one’. In a similar way, we have Judas, or Jude, who is described as the son of James, presumably to distinguish him from Judas Iscariot, or perhaps ‘Judas the notorious one’.

These distinctions are almost all that the four Gospels have to say about our two apostles. Simon has no special part to play. He’s important enough to be named, but that’s it. Jude is rather like an extra in a play – in John’s Gospel he has a walk on part and a single line at the last supper, and no more. Ordinary, everyday people, it seems. But, there is a lot to be said for being ordinary, for being the anonymous one, the silent one. Still waters, it is said, run deep. And this is certainly the case for Saints Simon and Jude. Tradition holds that both men worked hard at preaching the Gospel. It’s claimed that Simon preached in Egypt, and then later followed Jude on a mission to the people of Mesopotamia and Persia, where they were both martyred. That ordinariness was built on by the grace of God, and they showed themselves to be extraordinary in their love for Christ, and in their willingness to die for him. They were small yet vital stones in the foundation of the Apostles that Paul describes in the letter to the Ephesians. They were linked to Christ the cornerstone and inseparable from him.

Simon and Jude stand as an important example to us too – an example of that gentle, quiet, yet profound faith which can preach so eloquently of the power of God. It isn’t necessary to be a big fish to follow Christ. What is important is that we follow his way for us, and allow him to work on us so that his way becomes our way. In fact, if we make too much of a fuss, we might end up being well known for all the wrong reasons – and then there is a danger of being known as, say, ‘Andrew the arrogant’, or ‘Ian the impossible’. And no one wants that. We shouldn’t be afraid to be ordinary, simple, quiet, outwardly unspectacular servants of the Lord. Because only God knows what the fruits of such a life will be.

This is the homily preached by fr Robert Gay OP at the Conventual Mass in Blackfriars on the feast of SS Simon and Jude


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