Ps 119:89-96; Deuteronomy 32:1-4; Ephesians 2:13-22; John 15:17-27
Relatively little is known of St. Simon and St. Jude, the apostles we celebrate today. Their names appear all too briefly in the gospels. However, a tradition sprang up in the church which claimed that they traveled together to spread the gospel in Persia. There, beyond the relatively tolerant confines of the Roman empire, they became martyrs. Their story may be a vehicle for the memory of many Persian/Sasanian Christians who would fall victim to brutal persecutions as Persia and Rome jockeyed for dominance in the fourth and fifth centuries. Following the post-Constantinian shift in attitudes toward Christianity in the Roman empire, the loyalty of Christians in the neighboring Sasanian empire came to be looked upon with suspicion by their government. Regarded as the subversive vanguard of the Roman foe, Christians living under Sasanian rule suffered the tragic consequences of this suspicion. The traditions surrounding the martyrdom of St. Simon and St. Jude likely honor more than just two of the faithful whose lives are relatively unknown to us.
In our current political environment, the story of St. Simon and St. Jude may provoke questions about how our own nation treats religious minorities. History shows us the painful consequences of fear and suspicion of the other.
May the reconciling Christ of Ephesians 2, who, through his humanity, has torn down the dividing wall between two supposedly irreconcilable groups, show us a new and unexpected path to unity and peace. May we, who worship the Prince of Peace who gave his life even for his enemies, become a people of peace ready to put our own bodies and selves on the line for the other.