Saint Jude Thaddaeus
October 27, 2011
At his Wednesday audiences Pope Benedict XVI gave a series of short talks on the Apostles. In these catecheses the Pope is instructing Christian believers who want to have their faith confirmed and strengthened. The full collection of these talks may be found in The Apostles: The Origin of the Church and Their Co-Workers by Pope Benedict XVI. This book makes a wonderful gift for a loved one and when you purchase any publication listed anywhere on Dominican Daily you also help support the Order of Preachers in the new evangelization. Below one of the Holy Father’s catecheses. Today we take into consideration two of the Twelve Apostles: Simon the Cananaean and Jude called Thaddaeus (not to be confused with Judas Iscariot). We consider them together, not only because in the lists of the Twelve they are always mentioned next to one another (cf. Matthew 10:4; Mark 3:18; Luke 6:15; Acts 1:13), but also because there is not much information about them, apart from the fact that the New Testament Canon has a letter attributed to Jude Thaddaeus. Simon receives an epithet that varies in the four lists: while Matthew and Mark describe him as “Cananaean,” Luke instead describes him as “Zealot.” In reality, the two qualifications are equivalent, because they mean the same thing: In the Hebrew language, in fact, the verb “qanà'” means “to be zealous, passionate” and can be said either of God, in as much as he is jealous of the people chosen by him (cf. Exodus 20:5), or of men who burn with zeal in serving the one God with complete dedication, as Elias (cf. 1 Kings 19:10). It is quite possible, therefore, that this Simon, if he does not actually belong to the nationalist movement of the Zealots, was at least characterized by an ardent zeal for Jewish identity, hence for God, for his people and for the divine law. If this is the case, Simon is in the antipodes of Matthew who on the contrary, insofar as publican, came from an activity considered altogether impure. Evident sign that Jesus calls his disciples and collaborators from the most diverse social and religious strata, without any preclusion. He is interested in people, not in social categories or etiquette! And the beautiful thing is that in the groups of his followers, all, though diverse, from the zealot to the publican, coexisted together, surmounting the imagined difficulties: Jesus himself, in fact, was the motive for cohesion, in whom all found themselves united. And this constitutes clearly a lesson for us, often inclined to underline the differences and perhaps the oppositions, forgetting that in Jesus Christ the strength is given to us to compose our conflicts. And let’s also keep in mind that the group of the Twelve is a pre-figuration of the Church and prefigures therefore the Church in which there must be room for all the charisms, peoples, races, all human qualities, which find their composition and unity in communion with Jesus. In regard to Jude Thaddaeus, he is called thus by tradition, uniting together two different names: while Matthew and Mark call him simply “Thaddaeus” (Matthew 10:3; Mark 3:18), Luke calls him “Judas the son of James” (Luke 6:16; Acts 1:13). The nickname Thaddaeus is of uncertain derivation and is explained as coming from the Aramaic “taddà’,” which means “breast” and hence would mean “magnanimous,” or as an abbreviation of a Greek name like “Theodore, Teodoto.” Little is said about him. Only John notes a request of his made to Jesus during the Last Supper: Thaddaeus says to the Lord: “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” It is a question of great present importance, which we also ask the Lord: Why has not the risen one manifested himself in all his glory to his adversaries to show that he is the victor? Why did God manifest himself only to the disciples? Jesus’ answer is mysterious and profound. The Lord says: “If a man 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” (John 14:22-23). This means that the Risen One must be seen, perceived, also with the heart, so that God can make his dwelling in him. The Lord does not appear as a thing. The Lord wishes to enter into our lives and because of this, his manifestation is a manifestation that implies and presupposes an open heart. Only thus do we see the Risen One. To Jude Thaddaeus was attributed in past times the authorship of one of the letters of the New Testament that were called “catholic” in as much as they were addressed to a very large circle of recipients. It in fact was addressed “to the elect that live in the love of God the Father and have been preserved by Jesus Christ” (verse 1). Central concern of this writing is to put Christians on guard from all those who give as pretext the grace of God to excuse their own licentiousness and to lead astray other brothers with unacceptable teachings, introducing divisions within the Church “under the influence of their dreams” (verse 8). Jude compares them in fact to the fallen angels, and with strong words says “they followed the path of Cain” (verse 11). Moreover, he labels them without hesitation “as clouds without rain blown away by the wind or trees at the end of the season without fruits, twice dead, uprooted; as wild waves of the sea, which foam their filth; like errant stars, to which is reserved the fog of darkness in eternity” (verses 12-13). Today we are no longer in the habit of using such controversial language, which nevertheless tells us something important: That in all the existing temptations, with all the currents of modern life, we must preserve the identity of our faith. Of course the path of indulgence and dialogue, which the Second Vatican Council has felicitously undertaken, will surely be continued with firm constancy. But this path of dialogue, so necessary, must not make us forget the duty to rethink and to witness always with as much force the guiding lines of our Christian identity that cannot be given up. It is important to keep very present that this, our identity is not to be toyed with on a simply cultural plane or on a superficial level, but requires strength, clarity and courage given the contradictions of the world in which we live. For this reason, the text of the letter continues thus: “But you, beloved, build yourselves up on your most holy faith, pray in the Holy Spirit; keep yourselves in the love of God, wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life; be convinced, those of you who are vacillating …” (verse 20-22). We see clearly that the author of these lines lives his faith in full, to which great realities belong such as moral integrity and joy, trust and finally praise, all being motivated only by the goodness of our one God and the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, may both Simon the Cananaean as well as Jude Thaddaeus help us to rediscover always anew and to live tirelessly the beauty of the Christian faith, knowing how to give both strong and serene witness.