Hope and zeal in a desperate cause.

Ephesians 2, 19-22 + Luke 6, 12-16, Feast of Saints Jude and Simon

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Metaphors are given to us today of growth and building, foundations and capstones. Our faith is built upon the foundation given us by the first witnesses of the Gospel -- holy men and women whose lives were changed forever by their relationship with Jesus. Luke recounts the story of the calling of the 12 Apostles -- among whom are Jude and Simon, whose memory we honor on this day.

Simon is known as the "Zealot" and there has been much discussion over the years regarding this appellation. There was a faction among the Jews of the era known as the "Zealots" - revolutionaries opposed to Roman rule. Years after the death of Jesus, they helped organize a revolt that for a brief time threw off the Roman yoke, but which ended in the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. He may have come to the apostles from this group, or it may be a description of his holy zeal for the Gospel and the Kingdom of God.

St. Jude, often pictured in religious art with a bit of holy fire (representing the Spirit of God) resting upon his head, is the patron of desperate causes. This devotion is one of the most popular in the Church, and the personal ads of any given large city classified ad section is likely to have one or more "in thanks to St. Jude for favors received" notices, some containing an entire novena prayer. There may be a danger of superstition, but there is also the reality that many people are in desperate straits, and the tradition of invoking a powerful protector in such situations should not be casually rejected.

These are desperate days for the cause of social justice, and they are also days where a little zeal comes in handy ("a little zeal" is probably an oxymoron). Zeal that is based in a desire for self-promotion or anger is a dead end that becomes counterproductive, chasing people away and bringing alienation. But zeal that is rooted in the experience of Gospel conversion changes not only lives, but also entire societies and the course of human history. Consider the world-changing effects of Jesus and the small band of holy men and women who followed Him. Think about their imperfections, their mistakes, their lack of understanding, and yet see what has grown from this tiny, weak, almost imperceptible foundation.

Hopeless and desperate situations call for zeal, but they also call for prayer, and thus today's feast of these first apostles and martyrs of the Church is a reminder of the importance of the active and contemplative (one of the themes we have been following in this series). Paul himself writes of Christ as the capstone and the mortar which holds the structure of beauty, wisdom, justice, and love which we call the Reign of God together, built upon the foundation of the personal experiences of those who knew Jesus in the meridian of time.

St. Jude, patron of desperate causes, come to the assistance of the poor and marginalized. Bless all who work for justice with hope and abundance. St. Simon, give us a portion of your zeal for the Gospel, so that we may run and not be weary, walk and not be faint. May we be lifted up by the wings of eagles, as we become the dwelling place of God.

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