Tuesday, October 27, 2009


Of all the Twelve Apostles, of which ones do we know anything about their post-Resurrection careers as preachers? This means basically the New Testament excluding the Gospels. The answer: Peter, James and John. Of Apostles like Thomas or Philip or Andrew or Matthew, we have stories in the Gospels in which they are ‘featured,’ but beyond that we have nothing.

Think, too, of those of the Twelve of whom we know nothing beyond their names even taking the Gospels into account—of these, surely Simon and Jude must be included. Jude asks a question in the ‘Farewell Discourse’ of the Fourth Gospel; Simon is said to have been “a Zealot.” That’s it.

Yet the remembrance of “The Twelve” was so important and so powerful in the early Christian mind that we cannot do without them. Paul refers to them collectively (I Corinthians 15:5) as having seen the risen Lord; and the numerological symbolism of the “twelve” in the Book of Revelation clearly refers to the Apostles as a kind of fulfillment of the Twelve Tribes of Israel (even as Jesus is described as thinking—Matthew 19:28).

So a person can be critically important and at the same time unremembered in any specific way. Does this disappoint us, or does it offer us a consolation in our own faith-walk?

We don’t have to be celebrated or famous in order to be important as active members of the Body of Christ. We have to ‘bloom where we are planted,’ and bloom with whatever blossoms (or seeds, or fruits, or grains) are our nature. What matters simply is our fidelity

In our Journeysongs we have the hymn “God, We Praise You” (sung to the wonderful melody called Nettleton). Its second verse contains the lines True apostles, faithful prophets/ Saints who set their world ablaze/ Martyrs, once unknown, unheeded/ Join one growing song of praise. How sad to think of anyone offering his or her life for our Lord, then being “unknown, unheeded”! Yet if that martyr is in fact taking part in the “one growing song of praise” around the heavenly throne, who cares?

In the long run, we all have one destiny—to be remembered by the One who can never forget. Everything else is small potatoes. Thank you, Ss. Simon and Jude, for being patrons of the “unknown, unheeded” yet important ones who follow the Lord in life and death: quietly, anonymously, humbly, truly.

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