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 (15:20).
The altar is covered with a red frontal today; both the servers and I are also wearing red vestments. Red is the colour used by the Church to celebrate Our Lord’s Passion, the Holy Spirit, the Apostles and the blood of the martyrs; and on today’s feast all these themes come together as we rejoice in the glory of the Apostles Simon and Jude.
Ss. Simon and Jude are enigmatic figures in the group of the Apostles. St Jude features in in the Scriptures through the short letter he wrote, and his dialogue with Jesus at the Last Supper. He is traditionally acknowledged as being the cousin of Jesus according to St Joseph’s side, as well as being the patron saint of desperate causes, hospitals, and hospital staff. St Simon is not even mentioned in the Gospels except in the lists of the Apostles and he is venerated as the patron saint of curriers, sawyers and tanners.
The Church celebrates them together on this day because both of them are believed to have travelled to Persia in a joint missionary effort, and to have suffered martyrdom there. However, no much is known about their ministry, and about the way they shed their blood for the sake of the gospel.
I remember the difficulty in trying to patch together a coherent picture of St Simon and Jude’s life when I was at college a few years ago. My pastoral group had to organise a Eucharist – “group Mass”, it was called – once a term and our allotted day fell on the feast of these two Apostles. In the end, in order to convey any sort of message about Simon & Jude’s ministry I decided to realise a collage, an icon if you will, of these Apostles’ legacy. This is the icon you see today. Here you’ll see an image of Simon and Jude and those of many martyrs who have given their lives more recently in the area now occupied by Easter Turkey, Northern Iraq, and Iran.
Look at the icon and see the faces, or in some cases just the limbs of many brothers and sisters who have been killed because of their faith; because of our faith. Look and see those who remaining faithful to the preaching and example of the Apostles, have laid down their lives.
The brothers and sisters you see in this icon have kept the word of Christ as well as the word of St Simon and Jude who brought the gospel to their ancestors almost two thousand years ago; faithful to the love shown by Jesus and to the faith of the Apostles they have willingly given up their lives for Christ and his Church.
What about us? For many, keeping the words of Jesus seems to be one thing, but keeping the words of the apostles – and with them the faith of the Church – seems to be quite another; especially at a time when our church appears to be battered by the waves of uncertainty and disbelief.
However, today’s feast, today’s gospel reading, and the blood of these martyrs proclaim that keeping the words of Christ and believing in the apostolic church are one and the same thing. We cannot separate one from the other because we are all joined into one holy temple acceptable to God.
Jesus himself has shown the pattern of self-giving love that Simon and Jude and all his Apostles have replicated in their lives. Jesus himself is the one who constantly gives himself to us under the forms of broken bread and poured wine in order that we might give ourselves as broken, poured out for others; as a Eucharistic sacrifice, just as St Simon and Jude have done.
“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 (15:20).
May these holy Apostles help us with their prayers and obtain us from God the courage to always profess with joy the faith of the Church in Our Lord Jesus. Amen.