After the death and resurrection of Jesus, Saint Jude, the brother of James the Less and a cousin of Christ, traveled throughout Mesopotamia for a period of ten years preaching and converting many to Christianity. He died a martyr's death as tradition tells us he was clubbed to death and his head was then shattered with a broad ax. Sometime after his death, Jude's body was brought to Rome and placed in a crypt in Saint Peter's Basilica. Few things tell more about a man than the way in which a man speaks of himself. Few things are more revealing than the titles by which a man wishes to be known. Saint Jude identifies himself in his epistle in two ways: (1) "Servant of Jesus Christ", (2) "Brother of James".
ChristSaint Jude regarded himself as having one goal, one distinction in life, and this was to be permanently committed to the service of Jesus Christ. This permanent commitment ultimately rewarded Jude with the crown of martyrdom.
When Jude introduces himself, he also addresses himself to his fellow Christians who also are called, loved, and kept by Jesus Christ. Now a person can be called to an office, a duty, or a responsibility; or he may be invited to a party or some festive occasion; or as on other occasions a person can be called to render a judgment on oneself. So Jude tells us first he is called to be an Apostle, and how joyful this makes him, even though he is ever mindful of the saying of Christ-- "To whom much is given, much is expected." Jude is ready to render judgment of himself.
Like Jude, every Christian who is committed to Christ, has a responsibility, accompanied by the joy of the call, and must always be ready to meet judgment of himself because of the talents that God gave him.
As the knowledge of being loved by God grows in the Christian, Jude shows how the psychology of the Christian changes: he no longer fears God. Jude is quite conscious of this fact. The manifestation of God's love is made known in the merciful coming of the Saviour. And the coming of the Lord taught Jude that God is a Father who desires that His children associate with His life and share it intimately.
In telling us that a Christian is one who is kept by Christ, Jude implies that a Christian is never alone. Christ is always watching over His own. Jude teaches that the Lord protects us, as each person encounters the drudgery, despair, and disillusionment of daily life. Jude seems to be telling us much about himself, and every follower of Christ. Jude reminds us that those who are called --those dear to God, the Father-- are kept safe for Jesus Christ.
James, the Less, and Saint Jude were relatives of Our Lord. They are called "brethren" of Our Lord, but in the Aramaic as well as in Hebrew, this word "brethren" often means cousins or distant relatives. We know that Mary had no other children but Jesus. Sacred Scripture often uses "brethren" in the wide sense.
For example, Lot is called "the brother of Abraham" whereas he was actually his nephew. Laban is called the "brother" of Jacob, but he was his uncle. The sons of Oziel and Aaron, the sons of Cis and the daughters of Eleazar are called "brothers" but they were cousins. Today a priest in the pulpit will address the congregation--
"My brethren in Christ", but few, if any, of the congregation are blood relatives. So it is with the "brethren" of Christ. These two Apostles, James and Jude, were probably the sons of Cleophas who was married to Our Lady's sister, Mary of Cleophas. Thus, James and Jude were first cousins to Our Lord and, therefore, the nephews of Our Lady.
James the Less was the first Bishop of Jerusalem and the first Apostle to suffer martyrdom. Hence he was more known than Jude since he was the first of the martyrs among the Apostles. Is it any wonder why James wrote in his epistle:
"Consider yourselves happy indeed, my brethren ... When you encounter trials of every sort ... Blessed is he who endures under trials. When he has proved his worth, he will win that crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him." James 1,2-12.
Jude is known by three names. Since his first name is similar to Judas Iscariot, who sold Christ for thirty pieces of silver, he is always described in a negative manner--"not the Iscariot." Saint John's gospel describes Jude in this way when at the last supper, he asked the Lord a question:
"Judas (not the Iscariot) said, 'Lord, what is this all about? Do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?'" John 14,22. The answer Our Lord gave to Jude was that when our responsive love crystalizes into obedience, then God makes His dwelling within us.
In the Greek text of Matthew, Jude is known as "Lebbeus," and in the Vulgate edition of the Bible we read of him being called "Thaddeus." Later on Jude wrote an epistle beginning with words which reflected the answer he received on Holy Thursday night at the last supper.
From Jude, servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James; to those who are called, to those who are dear to God the Father and kept safe for Jesus Christ, wishing you all mercy and peace and love.
My dear friends, at a time when I was eagerly looking forward to writing to you about the salvation that we all share, I have been forced to write to you now and appeal to you to fight hard for the faith which has been once and for all entrusted to the saints. Certain people have infiltrated among you and they are the ones you had a warning about, in writing, long ago, when they were condemned for denying all religion, turning the grace of our God into immorality, and rejecting our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.
I should like to remind you--though you have already learned it once and for all--how the Lord rescued the nation from Egypt, but afterward he still destroyed the men who did not trust him. Next let me remind you of the angels who had supreme authority but did not keep it and left their appointed sphere, he has kept them down in the dark, in spiritual chains, to be judged on the great day. The fornication of Sodom and Gomorrah and the other nearby towns was equally unnatural, and it is a warning to us that they are paying for their crimes in eternal fire.
Nevertheless, these people are doing the same. In their delusions they not only defile their bodies and disregard authority, but abuse the glorious angels as well. Not even the archangel Michael, when he engaged in argument with the devil about the corpse of Moses, dared to denounce him in the language of abuse; all he said was," Let the Lord correct you." But these people abuse anything they do not understand; and the only things they do understand--just by nature like unreasoning animals--will turn out to be fatal to them.
May they get what they deserve, because they have followed Cain; they have rushed to make the same mistake as Balaam and for the same reward; they have rebelled just as Korah did--and share the same fate. They are a dangerous obstacle to your community meals, coming for the food and quite shamelessly only looking after themselves. They are like clouds blown about by the winds and bringing no rain, or like barren trees which are then uprooted in the winter and so are twice dead, Iike wild sea waves capped with shame as if with foam; or like shooting stars bound for an eternity of black darkness. It was with them in mind that Enoch, the seventh patriarch from Adam made his prophecy when he said, "I tell you, the Lord will come with his saints in their tens of thousands, to pronounce judgment on all mankind and to sentence the wicked for all the wicked things they have done, and for all the defiant things said against him by irreligious sinners." They are mischief makers, grumblers governed only by their own desires, with mouths full of boastful talk, ready with flattery for other people when they see some advantage in it.
But remember, my dear friends, what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ told you to expect. "At the end of time," they told you "there are going to be people who sneer at religion and follow nothing but thelr own desires for wickedness." These unspiritual and selfish people are nothing but mischief makers.
But you, my dear friends, must use your most holy faith as your foundation and build on that, praying in the Holy Spirit; keep yourselves within the love of God and wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to give you eternal life. When there are some who have doubts, reassure them; when there are some to be saved from the fire, pull them out; but there are others to whom you must be kind with great caution, keeping your distance even from outside clothing which is contaminated by vice.
Glory be to him who can keep you from falling and bring you safe to his glorious presence, innocent and happy. To God, the only God, who saved us through Jesus Christ our Lord, be the glory, majesty, authority and power, which he had before time began, now and for ever. Amen.