Today the Church remembers two of the twelve Apostles, Saints Simon and Jude. Like many of the early saints, there have been fantastic legends written about Simon and Jude. They are thought to have teamed up after Jesus’ resurrection to preach the Gospel in Persia, which is modern day Iran, or maybe in Egypt, or perhaps Greece, and possibly even England! Simon is often rendered in paintings and sculptures holding a cross cut saw because he is said to have been martyred by being sawn in two. Jude might have been the son of Cleopas and Mary and therefore a cousin of Jesus. He might also have been a vegetarian. He might also have authored the New Testament Book known as the Letter of Jude. He might also have been killed with Simon in Beirut, but he carries an axe as a symbol of his martyrdom rather than a crosscut saw. No matter what we don’t know about Jude, he is known by several names in Scripture, including Thaddeus and Lebbaeus, presumably because his given name, Judas, was the same as that other guy who turned Jesus over to the authorities. In fact, that association with Judas Iscariot was so embarrassing that he became known as the Patron Saint of Lost Causes because people were afraid to pray for his intervention for fear that it might be confused with asking for the bad Judas instead.
What I love most about Simon and Jude, along with the other disciples who weren’t so famous, is their faithfulness to the community that followed the cause of their master. All of them failed in the moment of trial. The Bible tells us that maybe John and certainly only a few women stuck around to see Jesus be crucified, but to a man, each of the 11 remaining apostles returned to the upper room in the days that followed. Each of them were filled up to overflowing by the sight of their Rabbi and friend turned Savior. Each of them received the Holy Spirit with power and might on the Day of Pentecost. Each of them went on to share the Good News of Jesus Christ across the face of the known world. And Each of them started out as regular people like you and like me. It was through their relationship with Jesus Christ that they went on to do great things. Each of us carries the same possibility within us.
The Gospel lesson appointed for the Feast of Saints Simon and Jude comes from what is known as Jesus’ Farewell Discourse. John’s Gospel doesn’t have an institution of the Lord’s Supper on the night before Jesus died. Instead, for five chapters John recounts the painful words of Jesus on his last night with his disciples. After he washes their feet, Jesus tells the disciples about his impending betrayal, about Peter’s coming denial, and then he tries to comfort them by assuring them that he would return to take them to his Father’s side. He promised them the gift of the Holy Spirit, and warned them that tough times were ahead. Our lesson opens with Jesus encouraging his disciples to love one another because the world won’t.
From the little bit we know about the lives of Simon and Jude we can find an example of what it means to love one another: they stuck it out, even when times got tough. They might have waffled a bit on Good Friday, but Simon and Jude went on to be faithful witnesses of the saving power of Jesus because of the support and love they received from their fellow Apostles, the wider community of disciples, and, if we believe that they traveled together for 30 years, the love they most certainly had for one another.
Life is not easy, and following Jesus isn’t something to be done in isolation. That’s why the Church exists: to help us to love one another as Christ loved us; to help us understand what it means to follow in his footsteps; and to encourage us to share by word and action the Good News of his life, death, and resurrection. May Saint Jude and Saint Simon be our faithful guides in this journey we call the life of faith. Amen.