Sunday, October 28, 2018

Sermon -- Festival of St. Simon and St. Jude, Apostles (October 28, 2018)

JOHN 14:21-27


In the name + of Jesus.

     Today, we commemorate two apostles of Jesus, St. Simon and St. Jude.  Both apostles have precious little mentioned of them in the Gospels.  Jude only utters a word once, which is recorded in the Gospel for today.  Simon says nothing at all.  It is possible that the epistle of Jude was written by the apostle we commemorate today.  But some debate that.  Jude was a common name, and it is equally possible that the epistle was written by another man named Jude who was listed not among the apostles, but among the brothers of Jesus.  Other than that, we must rely on traditions about both Simon and Jude, and even there the traditions differ.  Regarding Simon, the only thing we actually know about him is that he was a Zealot.  In other words, he was a political activist and a revolutionary, zealous for the expulsion of the Romans from Palestine, and eager to see the kingdom of David restored. 
     I sometimes wonder what conversations the apostles had amongst themselves, knowing that they were from different backgrounds and came with different ideas.  One the one hand, you had Simon the Zealot whose hatred for the Roman occupation was well known.  On the other hand, you had Matthew who had been employed by the Roman government to collect taxes from his fellow Jews.  It would be like having a church picnic where one member is sporting her “I'm with Her” button sitting across a man wearing his “Make America Great Again” hat.  You expect fireworks, each one wondering what place the other has in the church.  But Jesus never spoke to his apostles about whose side he would take.  Rather, he summoned all of them, “Follow me.”  Forsaking their egos and their agendas, they did.  Jesus showed that there was a place in Christ's Church, even a place among the apostles, for both.  They followed Jesus, and they became zealous for the word of Christ.
     In his zeal for Jesus to establish the kingdom of God, Jude asked Jesus a question: “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” (John 14:22)  It seemed sensible to Jude that Jesus would broadcast his glory to the world.  Simon would have agreed.  It was the goal of every Zealot to see a great kingdom erected and gloriously reigning over all things.  They are not alone.  We all want the kingdom of God to radiate with glory.  We want the Church filled with angelic visions and miraculous signs.  We want our Lord to demonstrate his power and to watch his enemies submit in fear.  But that is not how Jesus establishes his kingdom, and it is not how he makes himself manifest to the world.  If that is not how Jesus works, why do we crave such visions of glory and grandeur?  Because our desire to see the Church glorious and dominant is not really about Jesus; it is about us.  We want people to be envious of our glory, to think we are cool, and to long to be like us.  Repent.  Jesus never brought you into the kingdom because you are cool or because people should be zealous for your opinions and ideas. 
     Jesus is zealous for the salvation of sinners.  And in his zeal, Jesus became a lowly human being.  He submitted himself to the Commandments of God in order to fulfill them.  He submitted himself to the cruel schemes of vicious men so that he could be nailed to a cross by them.  He did not radiate in glory, but he appeared on that cross betrayed, beaten, bleeding, and dying.  He did not dress himself in majesty.  Rather, he hung naked in shame, wearing only a crown of thorns to mock his claim as king.  To the world, Jesus was just some poor shlup who was a victim of injustice, being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  However, God has manifested to you that Jesus came to the right place in the fullness of time.  What appears hideous and heinous to the eyes is most beautiful and glorious to faith.  For, we know that Jesus is the Son of God who endured all this pain, suffering, injury, and injustice for us.  Jesus died for us and our sin in order to secure forgiveness and salvation for us.  How was this manifested to us?  Jesus told Jude. 
      Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?”  Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.  Whoever does not love me does not keep my words.  And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father's who sent me.” (John 14:22-24)
     Be zealous for the word of Christ.  It is only through that word that anyone would believe in him, know him, and be saved by him.  So do not be zealous for miracles or angelic visions or world dominance.  Granted, Jesus' miracles brought healing and relief to many people; but those miracles did not bring forgiveness to anyone.  That is why we are zealous for the word of Christ.  That is how Christ is manifested to us as our Savior.  That is how we recognize that his crucifixion is the payment for all sin and that his resurrection from the dead opens heaven to us all.  That word is how Jesus assures us that God is merciful to us, that we are guaranteed a place in his kingdom, how we are to order our lives and are encouraged to keep on doing good, and how we are consoled when anything goes bad.  Our Lord was zealous for our salvation; so, be zealous to hear his word which manifests his zeal for us.
     We do not know where St. Simon and St. Jude went after Jesus ascended into heaven, but we do know what they did.  Jesus had commissioned them to preach the word to all creation.  They were apostles, witnesses of Jesus' words and works, and especially of his resurrection.  They went out and preached.  And though neither St. Simon nor St. Jude penned a Gospel account of Jesus' life, they faithfully proclaimed the testimony we have.  They were not victims of faulty memories.  They did not embellish for the sake of theatrics.  They proclaimed the word they were given.  Jesus had promised them: “The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” (John 14:26)  
     This is why St. Simon could still be a zealot and why Jude could share that zeal.  They were zealous for the word of Christ and preached it fearlessly.  For, their testimony about Jesus was not guess work, and it certainly was not false.  We are zealous for the word of Christ because it is the true, unfailing testimony about God's love and about man's salvation.  It proclaims the will of God for our lives and the glory which will come in our future.  It is the only message which relieves burdened consciences of guilt, which enables us to face death without fear, and which provides an enduring peace to get us through life when it is uncertain, or unfair, or cruel. 
     St. Simon and St. Jude were zealous for the word of Christ.  The one tradition about them St. Jude that is consistent is that they were martyred for the Christian faith.  Their zeal for Jesus Christ was greater than their desire for this world.  Though they were zealous even to the point of death, they now live with Jesus in glory.  Now, they see Jesus manifested in his full glory, and Jesus has granted them the crown of life. 
     St. Simon and St. Jude are not known in the world, and they are barely remembered even in the Church.  If St. Simon and St. Jude are practically anonymous to you, they are not anonymous to Jesus.  And neither are you.  Most of the world does not know you exist.  And whatever good you do for others will likely not be recognized or remembered.  But like St. Simon and St. Jude, Jesus knows you and loves you.  He sees the works you do to honor him and to serve your neighbor, and he delights in them.  He accepts them as praise and even manifests his love and compassion through them—even though the world will still not see these works as glorious.
     The glory of the Church will not be manifested to the world until the Last Day.  Until then, the glory remains hidden in Christ, who comes only through his word.  When the Last Day comes, the whole world will see Jesus in his glory.  And he will manifest you for who you are—a redeemed child of God and a saint in his kingdom.  So, until then, be zealous for the word of Christ.  This is where Jesus is revealed and how Jesus comes to you.  It is the only thing that saves, for it manifests how Jesus Christ is zealous for you.

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen. 

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