|Today the Church’s liturgy honors two men for whom we have lots of conflicting traditions, but little historical content. What stands uppermost is that these men were chosen by Jesus to be witnesses of the Good News of God’s salvific love. This includes being witnesses to the death and resurrection of Jesus and the bond of intense faith that emerges from the outpouring of God’s Spirit on those that Jesus chose to become missionaries to the ends of the earth. They announce to us that such witnessing is essential even to our own deaths.
St. Jude, about whom we have lots of myths, has for many centuries been recognized by the Church as the patron of hopeless situations, the one to ask for intercession when one faces the diagnosis of a fatal disease, the loss of a job, a pet gone for many days – and everything beyond and in between. I grew up hearing about St. Jude’s regular support for my Mother’s work in bringing back to religious practice the “lost causes” of many of the sheep herders on the ranch, who long before coming to work for us had abandoned any practice of religious faith. Indeed, my Mother with the support of St. Jude served as a biblical shepherdess finding lost sheep in every hill and valley of the ranch through the years. I can imagine them today gathering around “the Missus” in heaven telling her their stories of childhood in various “old counties” before arriving in Wyoming.
St. Simon is more obscure. He is the patron of those who saw wood for a living – because he was supposedly martyred by being sawed in half (I have often found a profound humor in the popular selection of “patrons.” – Who could appreciate the difficulties of using a saw more than someone who was martyred by a sawyer?!)
But the liturgy today is based on the Festival honoring these exceedingly important founders of the ancient Ecclesial communities of the Middle East all the way to modern Iran by being evangelists and witnesses to Jesus Christ and his mission of salvation.
Through the readings chosen the Church focuses on God’s call to those most needed to build up the Church and announce the Good News. One need not be a history maker – a pope, a king or a brilliant teacher to be an intimate friend of Jesus. In fact, these men were practically unknown. What comes down the centuries to us, however, is that they served as authentic witnesses to God’s Mercy in word and deed. These men faced the impossible task of telling the Good News to the ends of the earth. They did so with confidence that any task from God it is not only possible but will be done if we but reject our false modesty and our fear and get about it.
What impossible task confronts us today? What do we need to saw through to unleash God’s love? These two men are good companions to have on our journey of life today.