Monday, October 28, 2013

Ss Simon and Jude, Apostles

Ephesians 2:19-22 / Luke 6:12-16

We often experience a conflict between what seems to be best for the individual and what is best for the group. All too often, maximizing personal good comes at the expense of the common good, whether by the hoarding or consumption of time and resources, the disruption of common efforts, being absent from those projects that, apart from the contribution of all, fail to produce fruits for any. Even so, the contrary position, that of prioritizing the good of the whole or the many over the good of the few or the one, has been and continues to be, on both small-scale and national levels, the source of grave injustice, trampling on the lives of persons, preventing their flourishing, all the while justifying this action in reference to the common good.

It is striking, then, that the Scriptures use both the collective vision of the good and the individual and personal one as images to understand our vocation in Jesus Christ. In Ephesians, Paul reminds us that we in Christ are one among many, fellow citizens of the holy ones, being built into a temple. This temple, however, is not for us, not for our private benefit, but for God and his glory, a place sacred in the Lord which is built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. Our vocation, as presented in Ephesians, is, in other words, not principally for us at all.

In the Gospel, on the other hand, we hear the list of the Apostles called out not generically, but rather each by name. More than that, the evangelist takes great care to distinguish the specific individuality of each, showing genuine concern that those Apostles with the same name not be allowed to disappear or be effaced by the confusion. So, when he speaks a second time of Simon, who might easily be confused with that Simon who was called Peter, he tells us that this is a different man, Simon who is called a Zealot. Similarly, when it comes to Jude or Judas, lest we think that there was only Iscariot, who became a traitor, Luke makes sure to note that the first-mentioned Judas is the son of James.

What are we to see in all of this? On the one hand, the first image we hear ought to change our perspective of God's activity in our lives. He does not act simply for our sake, for fulfilling our needs and desires alone or promoting and assisting our personal projects. His work in our lives is precisely with the eye to fitting each of our lives with those of others, of making stones for building, shaped to come together not as a mere heap or pile, but as a true building, a temple, crafted to fit together as a dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. On the other hand, the Gospel reminds us that our life in Christ, our life in the Church, does not erase what is most personal to us. It does not come at the expense of what is dearest to who we are, but rather elevates and fulfills us.

This is why we need not fear being drawn into the mystery of the Church, the household of God, built upon the foundation of the Apostles and prophets. To live in the Church is to fulfill what is most worthy of God not in spite of, but because at the very same time it fulfills what we most desire as individuals, as persons precious in the eyes of our Lord, the capstone, our Savior Jesus Christ.

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