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asistersToday our Church remembers Simon and Jude, both apostles who are only known by their names or titles. Jude (not to be confused with Judas Iscariot) is mentioned in the gospel with the others chosen by Jesus as his close followers. Simon, known as the Zealot, was one of a sect of extreme Jewish nationalists who believed in the Old Testament concept that God alone was their king so that they were not to be subject to the Romans. Simon was converted by Jesus to a new and gentler way of living, it seems, but that is all we know of him. I didn’t know of him at all in my youth. As far as I knew October 28th was the feast of St. Jude alone, and I knew that much because it was – is – my sister’s birthday. By custom (way back then) she might have been named Judith but circumstances and the fact that we already had a close cousin with that name resulted in the fact that she is Paula.

Patron saints were a big deal in those days and I was proud to have Ann as my middle name so I could call the grandmother of Jesus my patron. I would have felt sorry for Paula if Jude was hers since Jude is the designated patron of those in “desperate situations” (http://www.franciscanmedia.org) We used to know that as “hopeless cases” and actually kidded my sister about that around her birthday on occasion.

I felt a lift this morning when I consulted the lectionary readings for the day. In contrast to some of the recent texts that seemed so serious and dark, today’s are filled with energy and motivation in the spirit of St. Paul. First, Paul announces to the Ephesians: You are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the holy ones and members of the household of God! (EPH 2:19) Then we hear the psalmist sing: Through all the earth their voice resounds, and to the end of the world, their message – a tribute to the work of Paul and the other early voices as well as creation itself (PS 19:5). Finally, the gospel reminds us of those called by Jesus as his first disciples (LK 6: 12-16) among whom we find Simon and Jude.

I was happy to hear these words – a birthday gift to my sister who has been in her life one who has always labored for the good of the whole, in both personal and professional relationships. Steadiness and generosity of self have clearly defined Paula’s life and blessed all of us who live within her sphere of influence. So today I honor my elder sister (my one and only!) and give praise to God for her life.