Our reflection below has been written by Fr Nicholas King. Fr Nick is a Jesuit priest who is currently Assistant Catholic Chaplain at Oxford University. He has recently published a translation of the entire Greek Bible. Fr Nick originally wrote these reflections for a separate initiative at the Shrine and we are very grateful to him for letting us publish it more widely.
Saint Jude was one of Jesus’ earliest disciples, but we know next to nothing about him, which makes him a good model for us, who are Jesus’ obscure followers. So what I thought we might do is to look at the picture painted of the disciples in the gospel of Saint Mark, who gave us the first of the four gospels. I’m going to give you a few references in Mark, and I should like you to blow the dust off your bibles (or buy a copy of Saint Mark if you don’t have one) and check out those references.
Now it is a very odd picture that he paints; because he gives us a picture of people who failed to understand Jesus, and who ran cowardly away when the chips were down. The first time that we meet them is at 1:16-20; and it is a most extraordinary story, the call of the two sets of brothers: “come after me, and I’m going to make you into fishers for human beings”.
• What do you think of what Simon and Andrew, and the sons of Zebedee did?
• Was it the right thing?
• Do you think they regretted it later?
The disciples do not always understand Jesus. Look at 1:35-38 , when they could not understand Jesus’ obsession with praying. Or look at Jesus’ terrible friends in 2:13-17.
• Why does Jesus have to pray?
• Why does he have such terrible friends?
The disciples are not up to very much it seems; they can feed the crowds (6:41), but only once Jesus has done the work. They can row a boat all right, but they get frightened when Jesus walks on the water (6:45-52), and totally fail to understand Jesus’ comments when they have forgotten to bring the picnic, so that he ends by saying “don’t you understand yet?”.
• What can you do for Jesus?
• Do you understand everything he says?
In the second half of the gospel, starting at Caesarea Philippi, they have to be taught where Jesus is headed: for Jerusalem and death. Three times (8:34-38; 9:30-37; 10:32-45) he predicts his own death; and each time one or more of them behaves in a way that makes it clear that they have not been listening to a word he says.
One disciple, however, turns out to be an absolute model of how to do it. His name is Bartimaeus, and he moves from sitting ‘beside the road’ to following Jesus ‘on the road’. You will find this story at 10:46-52; and you might like to notice that in the verse immediately following this they are in Jerusalem – and we all know what is going to happen there.
- Do Jesus’ disciples always understand him?
- Is Bartimaeus a model for you?
- Do you always understand Jesus? Do you always understand Jesus?
For the rest of the gospel, the mood gets darker and darker, and the disciples seem to understand less and less.
At the Last Supper (14:19-20) Jesus predicts that one of them is going to betray him, that all of them (14:27) are going to be “scandalised by me” (14:27), and that (worst of all perhaps) Peter “today, on this very night, before the cock crows twice, you are going to betray me three times” (14:30).
After that it gets worse, as Jesus’ inner cabinet snore through his prayer in Gethsemane (14:32-42); then when the arresting party turns up, all these brave men “abandoned him and ran away, every single one of them” (14:52).
- What do you think of the disciples’ behaviour? Have you ever treated Jesus like that?
But actually, that is not quite the end of the story. Back at the beginning, when they were first called, their main function was to be with him; and if you read the gospel through, you will find that they have managed it almost to the end (3:14); and Peter has managed that, even after the headlong flight, for he is still following Jesus “from afar” right into the courtyard of the High Priest (14:54). Not only that, but the women, it turns out, followed Jesus right to the end (the women almost always get it right in Mark’s gospel, with one and a half exceptions); you will find the brave women at 15:40, 15:47, and 16:1-8. Not only that, but the mysterious young man whom the women find in the tomb gives them a message for “his disciples and Peter: ‘He is going before you into the Galilee. You will see him there, as he told you’.” So they are back in the group.
- Who were the “one and a half women” who did not get it right?
- What do you make of Jesus’ disciples in this first gospel? Are they models for you to follow? Do you feel better when you read about what they did?
- Talk to Saint Jude; ask him what it was like for him.
Let us pray...
I believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
Maker of heaven and earth,
of all things visible and invisible.
I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the only-begotten Son of God,
born of the Father before all ages,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
consubstantial with the Father.
Through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven:by the power of the Holy Spirit
was incarnate of the Virgin Mary,
and became man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried,
and rose again on the third day
in accordance with the Scriptures.
He ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son he is adored and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.
I confess one baptism for the forgiveness of sins,
and I look forward to the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come.
SAINT JUDE, PRAY FOR US
Thank you to Fr Nicholas King, SJ; reflection © Fr Nicholas King, SJ