The Saint of Lost Causes

04-27-2024Weekly ReflectionFr. Gabriel Terrill

Dear Friends,

What do you do when you can do nothing? You pray. This is the image of faith in its rawest form. When there is nothing else that can save us, all we can do is cling to the help of God. All we can do is pray. In these moments when we feel that all hope is lost and all our supports fail us we encounter what I like to call “gutter grace.” Whether someone has left the faith or never encountered Jesus, it is typically in life’s gutter where the faith is most profoundly encountered.

This is because when we are separated from our typical securities, we are left helpless with nothing and no one to turn to except for God. When we are aware of the true nature of our fallen world, the false promise of sin and the existence of suffering and death we are more aware of the joy proposed by the Gospel. In these gutter moments Jesus acts as the saving hand that pulls us out of the abyss of despair and in these moments we pray and we hope. This is why sinners are the first to accept Christ in the Gospels since they have lived in the darkness of sin and suffering and see Jesus for who He is. The Savior, the one who can do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. This attitude of hope in the midst of a lost cause is championed by one of the Apostles and one of the most well known intercessors in the world. Saint Jude the Apostle.

Also known as Thaddaeus, Saint Jude the Apostle was the brother of Saint James the lesser and the cousin of Jesus. Images of Saint Jude depict him carrying a club which was likely the instrument of his martyrdom. Saint Jude is typically portrayed holding a scroll or book identifying him as one of the authors of Scripture. Saint Jude’s Epistle is the shortest book in the New Testament, measuring the length of only one page in most Bibles. He also has a flame above his head which marks him as one of the Apostles present during the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. After Pentecost Saint Jude preached the Gospel in Judea, Samaria, Syria, Mesopotamia, and Libya. Not to be mistaken with the Apostle who betrayed Jesus, Judas Iscariot, Saint Jude is one of the most well known Saints throughout the world and many Christians ask for his help as the Patron Saint of the impossible. This is strange since he only speaks once in the Gospel.

During the Last Supper Jesus explains to his Apostles that He will die, rise from the dead, and ascend and that the world will no longer “see” Him. Saint Jude asks Jesus, “what happened that you will reveal yourself to us and not to the world?” (John 14:22) Saint Jude asks the question that many Christians may ask in the midst of a crisis of faith. Why doesn’t Jesus reveal himself to the world in the same way that he did to the Apostles? The reason, as Jesus explains, is so that the Apostles would be witnesses to faith and go forth to share and preach gospel to a broken, fallen world. That they would be the ones to pass on the light of Christ to illuminate the world with hope and joy. Jesus emphasizes faith in Him as the path to Salvation in His response to Saint Jude as he says, “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.” (John 14:23) It is by faith that we are called to follow and live as disciples of Christ, and it was the Apostles who were formed by Christ and first received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and handed on that faith to our predecessors. As part of His response, Jesus assures the apostles of the presence of his Holy Spirit to lead and guide his Church as he says:

I have told you this while I am with you. The Advocate, the Holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name—he will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid. (John 14:25-27)

In these words Jesus assures the troubled Apostle Jude of His presence even after His Ascension. In particular there is comfort in the words Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid, as they are an assurance of God’s love and guidance even as the peace of the world is disturbed. And here we encounter the spirituality often associated with Saint Jude, that of the Saint of Lost Causes.

Many Christians wear medals of Saint Jude and pray for his intercession. This is because there have been many instances of answered prayers of the impossible through the intercession of Saint Jude. In particular, Saint Jude has become the Patron Saint of gutter moments, crises of faith, and times of darkness when all hope seems lost. Saint Jude is asked to intercede on our behalf and draw us closer to Christ in moments of despair. He acts as a patron who bears the light of Christ in a dark world and assures us of the hope and joy of the Gospel. In Saint Jude we find a spiritual friend in times of darkness, not as one who replaces Christ, but as one who encourages us to cling to Jesus in the midst of struggle or discouragement. In his witness Saint Jude invites us to pray, not only as a last resort, but as our first instinct in times of struggle or difficulty; to seek Jesus as our first and only help. In this witness we also find that we ourselves are not a lost cause, but that we are the beloved children of God who are strengthened by the Holy Spirit, and encouraged by the communion to persevere with hope and joy.

In Saint Jude we can all find an intercessor and spiritual friend who points to Christ in the midst of the impossible. There are many beautiful prayers that invoke the intercession of Saint Jude, but I find the following prayer particularly touching for those who are encountering suffering or alone: Most Holy Apostle, St. Jude, faithful servant and friend of Jesus, I place myself into your hands at this difficult time. Help me to know that I am not alone. Please pray for me, asking God to send me comfort for my sorrows, bravery for my fears, and healing for my suffering. Ask our loving God to strengthen my faith and give me the courage to accept His Will for my life. Thank you, St. Jude, for the hope you offer to all who believe in you. Amen.

Saint Jude, pray for us.