Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Who was Saint Jude?

In the run up to our Feast of Saint Jude celebrations, we are very happy to reproduce part of Fr Kevin Alban's recent letter to the friends of Saint Jude about this great saint. A saint of hope.

"This year we shall be celebrating over the weekend of 27 and 28 October. We are all looking forward to welcoming as many of you as possible to join us. 

Compared with Saint Peter or Saint Andrew, we know very little about Saint Jude really, but we do know one of the most important things of all: that he was called by Jesus to be one of the Twelve Apostles. I want to reflect a little on this so that we can see better who Saint Jude was as one of the closest followers of Jesus.

First of all, there are two versions of his name: Thaddeus in Mark and Matthew and Judas son of James in Luke. Sometimes we put these two names together “Jude Thaddeus”, but that’s just our best guess!! Maybe he was one of those apostles who stayed in the background, quietly working for the kingdom, as many people do. Maybe his exact name is not important: what is more significant is that he was a follower of the Lord. The only name that matters is that of Jesus Christ. Saint Jude has plenty to teach us in his silence and shadowy identity: it’s not about us, it’s about the Kingdom…

Secondly, instead of singling out apostles by name, we can focus on the group of twelve as a whole. It seems clear that Jesus chose these men specifically and deliberately: “I have called you, not you me”, he says quite severely almost. This also points to a fundamental truth in our lives that we owe everything to the Lord, that we cannot be anything without him. The number of apostles is important too.

These twelve men are called to sit on twelve thrones to judge the twelve tribes of Israel. In Jesus’ time the twelve tribes no longer existed, but their image exercised a powerful influence over the hopes and aspirations of the people. One of the signs of the restoration of Israel would be the renewal of the twelve tribes. 

This reference to the reawakening and regathering of the people would have been instantly comprehensible to those who saw the twelve apostles. So Saint Jude has a significant part to play in the expectation of the coming of God’s kingdom as part of the symbolic group of twelve around Jesus.

The role of the apostles was also to be the closest group around Jesus and to bear witness to his teaching and ministry. Their closeness to Jesus meant that they were able to receive a more detailed explanation of Jesus’ instruction and to ask questions of him. They had a deep and close relationship with the Lord, sharing everything and conversing with him on all sorts of subjects. They enjoyed exactly the relationship that Saint Teresa of Avila describes when she describes prayer as nothing more than a conversation with the one who loves us most. Saint Jude is one who can show us what it means to have a prayerful life with Jesus.

In the Acts of the Apostles we see this group of twelve in the period after the Resurrection and then Ascension of Jesus. The idea of “twelve” is so important for the early Church that the eleven apostles surviving after the departure of Judas Iscariot wanted to find a replacement to bring the number up to twelve again. A key quality they looked for in the “new” member was that he should be one who had accompanied Jesus on his mission and been a witness to it. The point here is that the twelve represented an extension and a continuation of Jesus’ ministry. These apostles were the foundations of what we call the Church.

Finally, the Acts of the Apostles tells us a lot about their work, including Saint Jude. They attended temple worship and prayed together at home, “breaking bread” as a sign of their unity. They preached and taught, provoking the opposition and hostility of the Jewish authorities. They attended to the needy and those on the edges of society, setting up what we would call a solidarity fund to help the poor from their own resources. They worked various “signs and wonders” among the people. They were sensitive to the ethnic composition of the community and rebalanced their ministry to take account of those who felt overlooked or unvalued. 

So even if we don’t have very much information about Saint Jude directly, we can build an impressive picture of him as one of the twelve apostles: the Lord’s companion and witness, foundation of the Church, preacher and teacher, helper of the poor and under-privileged… maybe we know quite a lot after all. "

Saint Jude, pray for us.

For more information on the Feast celebrations this coming weekend, please click here; to read more about Saint Jude, click here; and for everything Saint Jude, please click here.


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