HOMILY WEEK 30 04 – Year I
Our Identity and Life in Christ:
Feast of St. Simon and St. Jude
(Eph 2:19-22; Ps 19; Lk 6:12-19)
A bartender told two strings who went into a bar for a drink the bar did not serve strings and kicked them out. One of the strings asked the other string to tie it in knots and beat it up a bit. It went back into the bar and was asked by the bartender, “Aren’t you that string I kicked out a few minutes ago?” to which the string replied, “No, I’m a frayed knot!”
Today’s readings, and this feast, firmly establish our identity in Christ, and what it means to live in Christ.
The late motivational speaker Serge LeClerc claimed throughout his life as a gang leader, he was searching for identity, and found he could manipulate the rich and wealthy because they were also searching for identity. Our identity comes partly from within us, but also to a large part, from the familial and cultural influences surrounding us. When that breaks down, as it has in our present society, people are driven to the latest craze which is to try to claim some unique identity by choosing one’s own gender. One individual has even gone to the extreme of claiming to be a “genderless alien” complete with an attempt to look the part. I could only feel pity for that individual.
How fortunate we are to be given, by our faith and baptism in Christ, the full extent of our identity. St. Paul proclaims it loud and clear in his letter to the Ephesians: we are “citizens with the saints, members of the household of God, a holy temple, and a dwelling place for God.” On top of that, our identity is built “upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone.” There we have it – we are solidly grounded in a clear identity that nothing can take away.
Jesus in the gospel reminds us we are also his disciples, called each in our own way to be apostles, members of the New Israel he came to inaugurate. The gospel also reveals to us what our life in Christ entails, as his disciples. A disciple is a life-long learner who seeks to become a carbon copy of the master.
The first thing Jesus models for us is prayer as an intimate relationship with God our Father. Jesus spent the night communing with the Father in contemplation. Certainly, we can and should emulate him in practicing a more contemplative kind of prayer. Like the multitudes of people who came “to hear him”, we too should listen to him speak to us through his word. We need to be reading the bible, pondering the meaning of his words, and listening to his voice speak in the sheer silence of our hearts.
Then, like the people of his day, we need to come to him for healing of our woundedness, and deliverance from our secret sins and defects of character. We are to listen and hear Jesus speaking to us. We are to try to touch him. We are to receive healing from him. As the Messiah, he came to redeem and to sanctify; to forgive and to heal. That should be part and parcel of our life in Christ. As Ron Rolheiser OMI points out in a recent article, it takes great humility to acknowledge our sin and sinfulness, but that is the key to receiving the new life Jesus offers us.
Today we celebrate the feast of St. Simon and St. Jude. The names of Simon and Jude appear in New Testament lists of the Apostles but little else is known about either. Since there are two apostles named Simon and two named Judas (Luke 6:14-16 and Acts 1:13), these are distinguished as Simon the Zealot and Judas the son (or the brother) of James, the others being Simon Peter and Judas Iscariot. Simon is surnamed the Cananaean or the Zealot, names which refer to his zeal for the Law. Jude (Judas) is also called Thaddeus (Matthew 10:4 and Mark 3:18); the one mention of him outside of the lists is in John (14:22-23) where he is referred to as “Judas (not Iscariot).” They may have spread the Gospel to other countries. Traditionally, both these apostles suffered martyrdom. In a later tradition, Jude became a patron saint of so-called hopeless cases, probably because people were hesitant to call on him unless as a last resort, because of his name being the same as Judas the traitor. They are an invitation to us to give our lives to Christ.
The Eucharist is our living connection with them, the apostles and all the prophets. We celebrate our belonging to Christ, and our life in Christ. And with this clear identity, forgiven and healed, let us be apostles ourselves to a world hungering for a more life-giving identity for itself.