Mass closing the Annual Novena to St. Jude – October 28, 2020
Ephesians 2:19-22; Luke 6:12-16

For all that we have brought to these solemn days of prayer, for all of the hopes and needs that we hold in our hearts and place before the Lord, the gospel passage offered by the Church on this feast of Saints Simon and Jude seems rather anti-climactic, doesn’t it?  Essentially, it provides us with the names of the twelve apostles at the time in which they were called by Jesus, including the two saints whom we honor today:  Simon and Jude.

Wouldn’t you think that the Church would offer us something more – some great promise to those of us who hope and pray so earnestly – some message that would touch our hearts?  Instead, at least on the surface of the gospel, all we hear is a list of names.  So let’s look at this passage from Saint Luke a bit more carefully, then, in order to tap its richness and power to speak to our lives.

After he had spent the night in prayer on a lonely mountain, Jesus chose the twelve Apostles. From a group of disciples numbering at least seventy-two, only twelve were selected.  We might wonder how he called them.  Did he do so by name?  Andrew, James, Simon, Jude?  Perhaps he pointed to them.  Maybe he walked through the crowd and laid his hand on the ones he wanted.  Do you suppose that the other sixty felt relieved that they weren’t chosen or rejected, let down?

Simon and Jude were among those chosen – two individuals who would help to lay the foundational stones of our Church that has now existed in all corners of the world for two thousand years.  Yet, we know so little about them.  For the most part, they are mentioned only in passing, unlike Peter, James and John who are referenced a bit more than the other apostles.  Yet, Simon and Jude – two common, ordinary men – like us – are chosen by Jesus to do an incredible work.

To get a bit more perspective on the lesson of todays’ Gospel, listen to Saint Paul as he speaks to the Church at Ephesus in today’s first reading.  “You are citizens of the saints and members of the household of God,” Paul tells the Ephesians.  “You form a building, which rises on the foundation of the apostles” – ordinary men, Simon and Jude, and their colleagues – “with Christ Jesus himself as the capstone.  You are a part of the temple of the Lord.  You are a dwelling place for God in the Spirit.”

Simple words, aren’t they?  Yet words that suddenly begin to seem more powerful than we might first have imagined.  We become the place where God dwells – not through our achievement of perfection or the attainment of righteousness.  No, through Baptism and a humility that enables us to trust in the power and presence of God for our life and well-being, we become “a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.”

What an incredible reality:  God dwelling in me and in you!  …  God dwelling in simple, ordinary souls like me and you – from Pittston and Carbondale, where I was born, and Scranton and Kingston.  …  God dwelling in us and continually using us to build his Church and, in the process, providing us with the strength and courage to pass through this challenging world with hope.

We’ve been through a lot since we gathered for this novena a year ago.  Some of you, I know, have personal stories of suffering, loss and grief.  …  All of us have been confronted by the reality of an invisible force – a virus – that has the power to literally change our lives and turn our world upside-down.  …  And every one of us faces a future fraught with uncertainty.  Will this virus afflict someone that I love?  Will our country at last achieve some sense of peace and harmony?

Yet, through it all, we have endured, haven’t we?  We are here today – in this sacred space or in our homes – praying that God’s mercy, forgiveness and love might reign in our hearts.  This reality alone, brothers and sisters, is testimony of the fact that we are not alone.  Just as God has called the most unlikely of us to be his Church, so too has God sustained us and given us hope, even and particularly in these most challenging of times.

May the blessing of these treasured days of prayer, more than anything, provide us with an ever-deepening sense of trust in the Lord, who promises to carry us through the storms of life and bring us to a place of peace.