Saint Simon and Jude, Apostles – Readings

Commentary on Ephesians 2:19-22; Psalm 18; Luke 6:12-19

The Gospel reading, which is from Luke, describes Jesus choosing his Twelve Apostles. As happens regularly in Luke, Jesus is shown praying before any major action or decision. Luke tells us that Jesus went out to the mountain to pray, and spent the whole night in communion with his Father.

Luke speaks of ‘the’ mountain, although we do not know which one it is. But in the Scriptures, generally mountains are holy places where one can more easily commune with God. Famous mountains in the Scripture are Mount Sinai, where Moses spoke face to face with God, and Mount Carmel associated with the prophet Elijah, not to mention Mount Zion where the Temple of Jerusalem was situated. There is also the Mount of the Transfiguration, although again it is not certain which mountain is being referred to.

Then at daybreak Jesus called all his disciples together, and from among them chose twelve to be his Apostles. The names are then given and they include “Simon called the Zealot” and “Judas [or Jude] son of James”, the two Apostles we commemorate today.

What is the difference between ‘disciple’ and ‘apostle’? Are the terms interchangeable? Not really. Every ‘apostle’ is a ‘disciple’ but not every one of Jesus’ ‘disciples’ was formally called an ‘Apostle’.

The word ‘disciple’ comes from the Latin verb discere, which means ‘to learn’. A ‘disciple’ then is someone who learns from a master and tries to follow in his footsteps. The word ‘apostle’ comes from the Greek verb apostello, of which the noun is apostolos. This signifies someone who is sent out on a mission bringing an important message from someone in authority, an ambassador or an envoy.

Jesus had many disciples but just 12 of them were chosen to pass on his teaching after he had left them. They, in turn, would appoint others with the same mandate. Today, it is our bishops who have that mandate.

However, we might also say that every single baptised person is really called to be both a disciple of Jesus and an apostle, charged with passing on the Gospel message. Every single one of Jesus’ followers was called to be the ‘salt of the earth’ and the ‘light of the world’ and to behave in such a way that people would be led to God.

In the First Reading, which comes from the Letter to the Ephesians, Paul (the supposed author of this letter) is speaking to Gentiles who have become Christians. So he tells them they are “strangers and aliens no longer”. On the contrary, they are now “fellow citizens of the saints and members of the household of God”. The ‘saints’ (hagioi) really means ‘people set apart, who are different’, and is a term used by Paul to speak of members of the Christian communities. Here he is saying that the baptised Gentiles now belong fully to that family.

Paul also sees the Church as a building whose foundation are the Apostles and the prophets, with Christ himself as the headstone. The whole structure then becomes a “holy temple in the Lord”. This is the Temple of the New Testament, replacing that of the Old Testament in Jerusalem (although when the Letter was written that temple was still in existence).

So, as Paul will say elsewhere, the Temple of the New Covenant is not only built with bricks and mortar and confined to one place, but also consists of people. Wherever there is a Christian community, the Risen Christ is present there. “In him you are being built into this Temple, to become a dwelling place for God in the Spirit.” So, it is not the church building which makes us holy, rather it is we who make the church building holy by our presence in it.

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