View all Gospel Reflections |
My Place in the Universe
Feast of Saints Simon and Jude, Apostles
Jesus went up to the mountain to pray, and he spent the night in prayer to God. When day came, he called his disciples to himself, and from them he chose Twelve, whom he also named Apostles: Simon, whom he named Peter, and his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called a Zealot, and Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.
Opening Prayer: Today’s psalm reminds me that the heavens declare the glory of God, that the message of your Gospel resounds through all the earth. I come before you today, entering eagerly but humbly into your presence, because I once again want to hear your voice resounding in my own heart. I need your grace to live my life in a way that will praise and glorify your name. Grant me your grace, O Lord, in accordance with my needs!
- Called by Name: St. Luke points out that after a long night of prayerful discernment, Jesus called his disciples to himself, and from them he chose Twelve, whom he also named Apostles. The Christian life is a response to a call. Jesus draws us to himself, and he does so personally, as St. Luke makes abundantly clear by listing each of the Twelve Apostles by name. There is nothing generic about being a Christian. There is nothing self-help-ish about being a Christian. There is nothing Lone Ranger-ish about being a Christian. Jesus reiterates this during the Last Supper: It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain (John 15:16). In a secular world, this is hard to remember. We must keep going back to it. Our lives are not our own. We are Christians, friends and followers of Christ. We have been called and chosen, set apart for a mission, given an eternal destiny. This vision of our deepest identity is vibrant and adventurous. Is that how I live? Or have I fallen into the trap of viewing my faith as a checklist of dos and don’ts, as a burden, as an optional extra dimension to a life being led for this world only? It’s worth thinking and praying about.
- Do You Remember?: The Twelve Apostles would have remembered this day, the day Jesus called them to be members of his inner circle, for the rest of their lives. It was a special day. They would never reduce their relationship with Jesus to that moment of encounter and calling, but that moment would have had a special resonance in their hearts throughout their lives. It probably came back to them and provided encouragement in moments of difficulty and trial. We know St. Paul often began his letters with a reference to the moment of his call, and we can imagine that the Twelve would have often alluded to their moment of call as they too bore witness to the Gospel. Today’s saints, Simon and Jude, suffered martyrdom together in Persia (modern-day Iran) at the end of their earthly mission. We know very little of their missionary adventures, but we can rest assured that their unforgettable experience of being called by Christ was a sure anchor amid the storms they encountered throughout their lives. And what about us? How vivid is our awareness of Christ having called us? Do we often think back on those powerful experiences of his grace, those times when we knew–when we truly, experientially knew–that God was acting in our lives, nudging us, calling us, strengthening us? God often rebuked his chosen people in the Old Testament for forgetting about his many powerful interventions in their lives. May the Lord never rebuke us for such spiritual negligence!
- Our True Identity: In today’s first reading, St. Paul painted a compelling, beautiful picture of the Church. First, he told the Ephesians that they were no longer strangers or sojourners. That is the state of anyone who has not discovered and embraced their identity as children of the one true God, a state the Ephesians had experienced poignantly during their pre-Christian pagan phase of existence. Then St. Paul contrasted that state of uncertainty and insecurity with their new state: you are fellow citizens with the holy ones and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the Apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the capstone. In Christ, through our membership in the Church, our true identity has been given and revealed. We have a place in the universe. We belong. We have brothers and sisters who will be with us for all eternity. We are not wandering aimlessly through a random cosmos hoping blindly that some kind of meaning will stumble upon us. We know where we came from: the loving, all-powerful heart of God. We know where we are: on a pilgrimage through this fallen world, spreading the good news of the Gospel and growing in grace, virtue, and friendship with Christ. We know where we are going: to the Father’s House, to everlasting life in the company of Christ himself and all the saints and angels. Is this such a small thing, knowing all of this? Amid life’s hustle and bustle, we often act as if it were just a small thing. In truth, however, it is the biggest thing. And our daily life will only benefit if we treat it that way.
Conversing with Christ: When I stop to think about the miracle of your Church, of this massive community of believers spanning twenty centuries and the entire globe, a community united today by the same Gospel and the same sacraments and the same apostolic authority that has united it since the time of your own Incarnation, I am overwhelmed. I am filled with awe. You are faithful. You are redeeming the world by unfolding your new creation. And you have called me to enter into this amazing story, chosen me to participate actively in the spread of your Kingdom, the only kingdom where salvation can be found. Thank you, Lord, thank you.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will take time to write out two or three of my most powerful experiences of your presence in my past, so that I don’t forget about them, and so that I continue to be strengthened by the loving, grateful memory of your faithfulness to me.
For Further Reflection: Read, watch, or listen to Built to Last: A Retreat Guide on St. Peter and the Papacy.
Written by Fr. John Bartunek, LC.