Sts. Simon & Jude, Apostles

StsSimonJude3 Ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the Saints, and of the household of God; and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the corner-stone (Ephesians 2:19)

October 28th is the Feast Day for St. Simon & St. Jude, Apostles and I’ll give a little history on both Apostles.

Simon is called Simon Zelotes, Simon the Zealot, in Luke 6:15 and Acts 1:13. He was one of the most obscure among the Apostles. Little is recorded of him aside from his name.

The name of Simon occurs in all the passages of the synoptic gospels and Acts that give a list of apostles without further details about him.

Simon, whom he named Peter, and Andrew his brother, and James and John, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon who was called the Zealot, and Judas, the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor. (Luke 6:12-16, RSV)
We also know little about St. Jude the Apostle. “Jude of James” is only mentioned twice in the New Testament: in the lists of apostles in Luke 6:16 and Acts 1:13.

The name by which Luke calls the Apostle, “Jude of James” is ambiguous as to the relationship of Jude to this James. Such a construction commonly denotes a relationship of father and son, it has been traditionally interpreted as “Jude, brother of James”.

The John 14:22 mentions a disciple called “Judas not Iscariot”. This is generally accepted to be the same person as the apostle Jude. In some Latin manuscripts of Matthew 10:3, Jude is called Judas the Zealot. St. Jude is also traditionally recognized as the author the General Epistle of Jude.

According to the Armenian tradition, Saint Jude suffered martyrdom about 65 AD in Beirut, Lebanon together with the Apostle Simon the Zealot, that is why their feast day is connected together.

St. Simon and St. Jude were Apostles and as such are part of the foundation on which the Church stands. Of those who belong to the Church, Paul says that we who have come to Christ are no more strangers and foreigners. Paul uses three analogies in the Epistle reading to describe this relationship.

First, Paul says that we are “fellow citizens with God’s people.” We have entered a new kingdom. We have changed our citizenship and now we are under another authority. We take for granted the rights of American citizenship so much that we have almost forgotten the fact that we are under authority. The government has certain powers over us. We are under authority. That is the first mark of citizenship.

The thing that makes us rejoice in our citizenship is that we have certain privileges. In the kingdom of God we have the protection of a King. There is power available there, the power to raise us from the dead. That kind of power works beyond human thinking and planning. God invites us to call upon Him for that kind of resource, whenever we need it.

Second, we are “members of God’s household.” This is an advance on the first point. We are members of God’s own family. This is the great truth that Paul is trying to bring home to our hearts, which is that we have access to a Father who is the King.

Third, Paul goes on to describe an even closer relationship: you are “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.” Perhaps that seems something of an anticlimax. As an analogy, a building is rather cold and impersonal compared with the relationship of a family, but in the structure of a building, no separation of stones that make up the walls is possible. If the stones are separated, the building crumbles. This analogy hints at the closeness of the structures in the kingdom. It also speaks to the strength of the structure with Christ being the very stone that holds it all together.

Always remember the sacrifice of those who helped build Christ’s Church, men like St. Simon & St. Jude. Remember that you are under authority, belong to a family, and a building, a holy temple which is not of this world. Your citizenship is in Heaven with Jesus and His Saints, so do as Our Lord Commands. Love your neighbor, even though he may persecute you. Finally, pray that God will join you to His Holy Temple, through the unity of the Spirit.


St. Michael and All Angels

St. Michael

St. Michael

There was a war in Heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, and prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven,

In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.

In from today’s Epistle, Gospel and Lessons for Morning Prayer, we can gather four things;

First, the universe is more complex than it appears. There are unseen forces that are at war with each other. Second and third, those unseen forces consist of Good and Evil. There is a universal battle between God, the Holy Trinity, and the angels of Heaven, of whom the archangel Michael is the battlefield commander in the fight against the spiritual forces of wickedness that corrupt and destroy the creatures of God. Those forces of wickedness are that old dragon, Satan, and the demons of hell. Our Lord Jesus clearly took the threat of the demonic seriously. He confronted and vanquished that evil on a daily basis during his earthly ministry. Finally, we understand that it is Satan’s will that people’s minds be closed to the gospel and to the fact that the universe is more complex than it appears. It is the Gospel of Jesus Christ that open’s the mind to the truth, to the light so that we might be saved.

In our “scientific” age it is common for people to doubt the existence of anything that cannot be tested by the scientific method. In this age, however, developments in elementary particle physics show us that the same particle of matter can exist in two places at one time, that it can appear in one place and reappear in another without traveling the distance in between, and finally that forces in other dimensions or parallel universes have an effect on our universe. The force with trans-dimensional effect is gravity (gravity leakage used to explain why gravity is a “weak” force), the very force which keeps our feet to the ground and which keeps the Earth in orbit around the sun. Those forces sound supernatural, yet science accepts them and the theoretical explanations of their observed nature. Against that background, belief in unseen realms and forces should not seem far fetched.

In our modern age, we tend to think that ancient minds were simple and that they had simplistic ways of understanding the world. Consider however that the Greek philosopher Democritus envisioned the existence of particles that combine to form every type of matter, solid, liquid and gases alike. Without advanced scientific tools or methods, Democritus spoke of the atom, the object of some of the most advanced science of our age. This was 470 BC, around the same time that the Jews returned from the Babylonian exile. The point is that ancient minds could be quite perceptive about the nature of the universe and modern minds have the tendency to see the universe only as our world view allows.

St. Michael, an angel, is on the Church calendar. It is a Prayer Book Holy Day, so what is the deal?

We have no less authority than Jesus Christ Himself as witness that angels exist and that they are vital to our welfare. So the question remains, are angels a mistaken superstition or are they relevant to our age?

This question cannot be answered by scientific inquiry, however, when you turn to the record of man’s experience with these creatures, the positive evidence is overwhelming.

At this week’s Bible study, there were several accounts from modern, intelligent women who gave their testimony of how God had intervened in their lives to save them in time of grave danger.

Both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible are filled with the assumed factual presence of angels. The word angel means messenger. The Hebrews believed that God created an order of supernatural beings to serve Him. In man’s experience, angels serve as messengers who deliver messages between God and the world of men.

In scripture, the appearance of angels seems quite commonplace. Remember the childless Sarah, who stood laughing in her tent as she eavesdropped on the conversation between three angelic visitors and Abraham. The angels stayed for dinner. Mary, the Galilean peasant girl, learned from an angel that she was chosen of God to give human birth to the Messiah. It was from the angelic host that the shepherds heard that the Messiah had indeed come. When Jesus was tempted by the devil in the wilderness, angels came and ministered to Him. When the Apostles stood in front of the empty tomb at Easter, it was angels who explained to them what they seemed unable to grasp themselves. Again, at the Ascension, it was necessary for angels to tell the Apostles what they had witnessed but not understood. St. Peter may have lived out his days in a Palestinian prison, had not his guardian angel spirited him away for the work of God instead.

Similarly, virtually every culture in the ancient world accepted the existence of evil spirits. In the New Testament demons are referred to more than seventy times. They are most frequently referred to as daimonia, literally “little demons,” reminding us of their relative powerlessness before the awesome might of God’s only-begotten Son. In the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles, demons are often associated with physical illness, including blindness and symptoms that look very much like epilepsy to the modern reader. Even more frequently demonic possession is described in ways that strongly resemble what we would call “mental illness,” ranging from catatonia to self-destructive behavior to uncontrolled outbursts of violence. Jesus directly confronts demons that cause these physical and mental problems and He expels them by a word of command, just as He cures physical ailments by His word and His saving touch.

Satan’s desire to deface the image and likeness of God borne by mankind prompted his temptation of Adam and Eve in the Garden, and our First Parents tragically chose to betray the divine likeness they already possessed and joined in the demonic rebellion. The results of their Fall has been catastrophic for us, their children. We were meant to care for God’s world, yet we became weak and ill. We were intended to partake of the Source of Life and Light, yet we have inherited death and darkness. Satan and his minions have been highly effective in their wretched task. For millennia they have toyed with us before we return to the dust from which we came.

And it is not only the human race that suffers the effects of the Great Rebellion. St. Paul, in the eighth chapter of Romans, tells us “that the sufferings of this present time (Romans 8:18).” are part of the subjection of the whole created order! The whole Universe, not just mankind, groans in bondage to decay as a result of the fall (Look up the 2nd law of thermodynamics to see the results of the fall on all of creation).

It is now our turn to take our place in the line of battle. You and I are heirs through faith, repentance, and the waters of baptism to Christ’s authority to tread over “all the powers of the enemy (Luke 19:19).”

The enemy would have you be ignorant of this battle. That way he has the advantage of surprise in his attack. In 2 Corinthians chapter 4, it states that, “…if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them that believe not…” The devil is the god of this world to whom Paul is referring. But to those who have knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, this is a war that is already won. As is states in today’s epistle reading, “Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony.” The fact that the war is won does not mean that our battle will be easy. Our triumph only comes from our being conformed to the divine image of the One who sent us. St. Paul, one of the greatest of the spiritual warriors fighting at our side, no doubt had this in mind when he said in Galatians 6:17 that “From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” Let us not forget that you and I, like Paul, were sealed by the Holy Spirit in baptism and marked as Christ’s own forever in our baptisms. And if we take up our crosses daily and follow after Christ; that will leave a mark on our hearts, and minds, and souls as well. And if we are transformed by our Savior’s cross, when the spiritual forces of darkness see us coming, they will see Christ and they will quake in fear and be subject to us in His holy Name. In Luke chapter 10, verses 16-20, Jesus addresses seventy people that he had sent forth in his name, “He that heareth you heareth me; and he that despiseth you despiseth me; and he that despiseth me despiseth him that sent me. And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name. And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven. Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you. Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven.”

Long ago Satan and his demonic cohorts refused to bow to the image of God that is present in man. The powers of Hell have done everything they can to keep the divine image in Man from shining forth in the world again. But now Satan has no choice. For in Christ’s perfect obedience, even to death on the cross, the once defaced image of God has been fully restored in Him. The image of God radiates flawlessly from the Body that still bears the scars of perfect Love. Therefore, as it states in Phillipians Chapter 2 verses 9-11 “Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Let us go forth as Christian Soldiers and do God’s work in this world. By going forth in His name, we tread Satan under our feet.
In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. Amen.

St. Gilbert of Sempringham

St. Gilbert of Sempringham

St. Gilbert of Sempringham

St. Gilbert of Sempringham
(c. 1083-1189)

Gilbert was born in Sempringham, England, into a wealthy family, but he followed a path quite different from that expected of him as the son of a Norman knight. Sent to France for his higher education, he decided to pursue seminary studies.

He returned to England not yet ordained a priest, and inherited several estates from his father. But Gilbert avoided the easy life he could have led under the circumstances. Instead he lived a simple life at a parish, sharing as much as possible with the poor. Following his ordination to the priesthood he served as parish priest at Sempringham.

Among the congregation were seven young women who had expressed to him their desire to live in religious life. In response, Gilbert had a house built for them adjacent to the Church. There they lived an austere life, but one which attracted ever more numbers; eventually lay sisters and lay brothers were added to work the land. The religious order formed eventually became known as the Gilbertines, though Gilbert had hoped the Cistercians or some other existing order would take on the responsibility of establishing a rule of life for the new order. The Gilbertines, the only religious order of English origin founded during the Middle Ages, continued to thrive. But the order came to an end when King Henry VIII suppressed all Catholic monasteries.

Over the years a special custom grew up in the houses of the order called “the plate of the Lord Jesus.” The best portions of the dinner were put on a special plate and shared with the poor, reflecting Gilbert’s lifelong concern for less fortunate people.

Throughout his life Gilbert lived simply, consumed little food and spent a good portion of many nights in prayer. Despite the rigors of such a life he died at well over age 100.

Pax et bonum,
Friar Mike

Feast of Saint Bartholomew the Apostle

Today, August 24th is the feast day for Saint Bartholomew the Apostle.  We know St. Bartholomew as one of the 12 disciples.  That is why we celebrate his Saint’s Day.  He is named in the Synoptic Gospels, that is in Matthew 10, Mark 3 and in Luke 6 where the 12 apostles are listed.  Bartholomew is a patronymic for “son of Tomai” or “son of the furrows”.  Perhaps he was a ploughman or the son of a ploughman, given his name.  In the Gospel of St. John, Bartholomew is traditionally identified with Nathanael.

In John 1:45 there is an exchange between Nathanael and

Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph. And Nathanael said unto him, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip saith unto him, Come and see. Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile! Nathanael saith unto him, Whence knowest thou me? Jesus answered and said unto him, Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee. Nathanael answered and saith unto him, Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel. Jesus answered and said unto him, Because I said unto thee, I saw thee under the fig tree, believest thou? thou shalt see greater things than these. And he saith unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.

Here, Nathanael questions Philip about the Messiah coming
from Nazareth, but he goes to meet Jesus nevertheless.  Jesus
recognizes that there is no deception in Nathanael.  Nathanael recognizes Jesus immediately as Messiah,
the Son of God.

In John 21, Nathanael is with Peter, Thomas, James, John and
two other unnamed disciples at Jesus’ appearance at the Sea of Tiberias, that being Jesus 3rd appearance after His resurrection.

Finally the last scripture reference to Bartholomew appears
in Acts 1:13.  He is there in the Upper
Room in Jerusalem with the other apostles at the time of Pentecost.

Tradition holds that Bartholomew made a missionary journey
to India.  Legend has it that he was an apostle to Arabia.  Finally, there
is an abbey constructed in Armenia where Bartholomew was supposedly martyred. It is there at Albanopolis that Bartholomew is believed to have converted King Polymius to Christianity.  The King’s
brother Astyages had Bartholomew skinned alive and then crucified upside down.  Icons and other art depicting St. Bartholomew show him holding his own skin.

In the Gospel reading for today (Luke 22:24-30), Jesus interrupts an argument among the disciples about who shall be regarded as the greatest among them.  They are there together at the Last Supper,
arguing about titles.  Jesus tells them that the greatest among you shall be as the youngest and the man that shall be chief shall act as a servant.  Asks them who is greater, the master who sits at the dinner table or the man who serves him?  Jesus says, “I am among you as he that serveth.”  I am the servant at that table.

By Jesus’ description, the greatest is not the person with the title.  It is the person who serves.  It is the person who does the will of God

Today, society looks up to rock stars, captains of industry, the intellectual elite, and sometimes even politicians.  The person who is held in high regard in Heaven is not a rock star.  It is through lowly, humble service here on earth, that you receive regard in Heaven.

An so it is with St Bartholomew, one of Jesus twelve, one who recognized Jesus as the promised Messiah, one who labored in travel for the spread of the comfortable Gospel of Jesus Christ and one who  gave his life for the Gospel.  May we be more like St. Bartholomew and offer our lives up in humble service to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.