Jesus went up to the mountain to pray,—Luke 6:12–16
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.
I never had the pleasure to attend, but I worked at a sleepaway camp! I was the counselor to very lively little girls between ages 9 and 10, nicknamed the Super Debs. They were quiet and awkward, and these girls could not have been any more different from each other. Despite what seemed to be many barriers, they became the best of friends in the four weeks they spent together! Camp relationships are like that. You tend to spend an incredible amount of time with a small group of people. You learn what you think is everything about them, and you do all the activities together. On the last day, forget it! You cannot say goodbye! Summer is over! You are overwhelmed and cry for these amazing friends you did not choose! Friends that loved you. Although my Super Debs may not have stayed friends beyond that summer, that friendship, I am sure, changed them forever.
Every friendship we experience changes us. The friendships that spark fast, burn out quickly, the friendships that weaken over time, the ones that we work hard for and make stronger…the ones we pick up over and over again as if time never stops, the fun friendships, the life-giving ones…the friendships we take for granted or actively avoid. Which of these friendships is real? They all are real. Each one touches us and transforms us. As we grow in friendship, our heart’s capacity to love grows too.
Who are Simon the Zealot and Saint Jude? There are very little Scripture references besides the Gospel today, which tells us that they were disciples and Jesus’ very close friends. Christ prayed for them and loved them as the gift they are from the Father. Saint Jude has a hospital named after him, he’s the saint of impossible causes…but how? Why am I looking for Saint Jude’s résumé? Why am I asking what sort of man Simon the Zealot was, when I should be asking what his love for Christ inspired? It does not matter who they were before, because their friendship with Christ—and our friendship with Christ—is transformative.
Jesus loved them all until to the very end. These very imperfect men, who appeared to be of little consequence, were chosen for this friendship that allowed them to learn who Love is and how to love.
Being in friendship with Christ doesn’t always feel like smooth sailing! We read in the Scriptures that the Apostles competed, quarreled amongst each other, and frankly were always a bit confused. Jesus, I am sure, was patient. But like the disciples, like Peter, we stay, because to whom else shall we go? (John 6:68) Jesus is the greatest love: the way, the truth, the life. Judas Iscariot was loved, he was chosen by Christ himself. That friendship ended badly, or we could say that friendship ended and God’s plan for our salvation continued its motion. We can be Catholic and say both/and.
When we enter into friendship with Christ, on the good days and the bad days all that we are is who God wants us to be. When we love our neighbor, all we are doing is loving them because he loves us first. Yes, we are imperfect; we are sinners, and yet God invites us each, unworthy though we may be, into friendship daily.
Lord, help us to grow in friendship, love, and service. Lord, place a desire in our heart to meet you in every person at work, at home, at camp, to grow in friendship with you every day. God our Father, our best friend, help us to be your hands and to lead a life that points to you.
Saint Simon and Saint Jude, pray for us!