Simon and Jude were named among the twelve apostles in the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. Simon is called ‘the Zealot’, probably because he belonged to a nationalist resistance movement opposing the Roman occupation forces. There is no indication in the gospels whether Simon moved from the Zealot party to be a follower of Christ or, on the other hand, if after the resurrection he became a supporter of that group, seeing it as a response to God’s call to proclaim the kingdom.
Luke describes Jude as the son of James, while the Letter of Jude has him as the brother of James, neither of which negates the other. It seems he is the same person as Thaddæus, which may have been a last name. Owing to the similarity of his name to that of Judas Iscariot, Jude was rarely invoked in prayer and it seems likely that because of this, interceding through him was seen as a final resort when all else failed. He became known, therefore, as the patron saint of lost causes.
The two apostles are joined together on this day because a church, which had recently acquired their relics, was dedicated to their memory in Rome in the seventh century.
O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
who built your Church upon the foundation
of the apostles and prophets,
with Jesus Christ himself as the chief cornerstone:
so join us together in unity of spirit by their doctrine,
that we may be made a holy temple acceptable to you;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
O Lord, your word is everlasting;
it ever stands firm in the heavens.
Your faithfulness also remains from one generation to another;
you have established the earth and it abides.
So also your judgements stand firm this day,
for all things are your servants.
If your law had not been my delight,
I should have perished in my trouble.
I will never forget your commandments,
for by them you have given me life.
I am yours, O save me!
For I have sought your commandments.
The wicked have waited for me to destroy me,
but I will meditate on your testimonies.
I have seen an end of all perfection,
but your commandment knows no bounds.
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning, is now and shall be for ever. Amen.
Reading: John 15.17-27
Jesus said to his disciples: ‘I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.
‘If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me before it hated you. If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. Because you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world – therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, “Servants are not greater than their master.” If they persecuted me, they will persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also. But they will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not have sin. But now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. It was to fulfil the word that is written in their law, “They hated me without a cause.”
‘When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf. You also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning.’
One of the prayers that is regularly offered by the Church is a prayer for those who are persecuted for their faith in Jesus Christ. This prayer is usually offered when we are thinking of those who live under the threat of imprisonment, torture or death because of their faith. However, we do not need to be living in such harsh conditions to feel a sense of religious persecution.
In today’s reading Jesus is warning his followers that his path is far from being an easy one. Many will not understand his new way of living and will react violently against it. Of course, shameful as it is, Christians down the centuries have behaved just as violently against people of different faiths, as well as against those who have practised their Christian faith in a different way. It is as though human beings are hard-wired with a need to reject any religious practice or opinion that differs from their own. This also applies to those of no faith.
Thankfully, we live in a society where people enjoy freedom of speech and thought. We can say what we think without fear of imprisonment or persecution. Or can we? Is that just a myth?
In recent times the law has had to be changed. Because of the violent radicalisation of some people, ostensibly in the name of religion, restrictions have had to be imposed on thoughts and actions from fear of terrorist violence.
Also in recent times, there has been an increasing voluble anti-religious voice. People, including those who have ready access to the media, have, in increasingly hostile terms, begun to attack anyone and everyone who expresses a religious faith.
Jesus spoke of this situation two thousand years ago, and there was nothing vague about what he said. Just as religious and political powers hated him, so he warned that those who profess a faith in him will come to experience the same hatred.
People do not understand the Christian faith because they cannot control it, and what they cannot control terrifies them, and what terrifies can so often create a violent backlash.
But … Jesus has a simple method by which we might find protection and security. That method never resorts to either verbal or physical violence, and it never seeks revenge. Jesus’ method is to simply love and serve in his name. Not an easy method, but remarkably effective and powerful if you can master it. Go on, give it a go!
Prayers of Intercession
Let us pray to God who has called us to be his witnesses in our time.
Empower the Church through the Holy Spirit to follow in the steps of the Apostles. Give to her ministers grace faithfully to preach the Gospel which they have received.
Have mercy upon a world where so many feel despair, and fear what is to come. Strengthen all who are trying to hold fast to the truth and to bring hope to those around them.
Make us channels of your peace to our families and friends, and those with whom we work. Be with those in our community who are in positions to offer help and guidance, and bless their work.
We pray for all who suffer persecution for their faith and are tempted to fall away. Give them hope in their troubles and relief from their suffering.
We remember those who have finished their course in this world and rest from their labours. May they offer their praise with blessed Simon and Jude and all the company of heaven.
Accept our prayers in the name of Jesus Christ, the refuge of all who turn to him.
Prayer for the week
We thank you, Lord,
for calling us to be your witnesses:
grant us the courage and the love
to be obedient and faithful to that calling.
We pray that our lives may bear witness
to your love shown in Jesus Christ,
and that our witness may reflect your light
in the communities in which we live and work,
to the glory of your name.
The Lord’s Prayer
Let us pray with confidence as our Saviour has taught us
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
and the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
be with us all evermore. Amen.
Ye that know the Lord is gracious,
ye for whom a corner-stone
stands, of God elect and precious,
laid that ye may build thereon,
see that on that sure foundation
ye a living temple raise,
towers that may tell forth salvation,
walls that may re-echo praise.
Cyril Argentine Alington (1872–1955)