The apostle St. Jude is distinguished from the Iscariot by the surname of Thaddaeus. He was brother to St. James the Less as he styles himself in his epistle; likewise of St. Simeon of Jerusalem and of one Joses, who are styled the brethren of our Lord, and were sons of Cleophas, and Mary, sister to the Blessed Virgin. This apostle”s kindred and relation to our Saviour exalted him not so much in his master”s eyes as his contempt of the world, the ardor of his holy zeal and love, and his sufferings for His sake. It is not known when and by what means he became a disciple of Christ; nothing having been said of him in the gospels before we find him enumerated in the catalog of the apostles. After the last supper, when Christ promised to manifest himself to everyone who should love him, St. Jude asked him, why he did not manifest himself to the world?
By which question, he seems to have expressed his expectation of a secular kingdom of the Messias. Christ by his answer satisfied him, that the world is unqualified for divine manifestations, being a stranger and an enemy to what must fit souls for a fellowship with heaven; but that he would honor those who truly love him with his familiar converse, and would admit them to intimate communications of grace and favor. This was a lesson St. Jude learned well and it would be the theme much of his teachings. After our Lord”s ascension and the descent of the Holy Ghost, St. Jude set out with the other great conquerors of the world and hell, to pull down the prince of darkness from his usurped throne; which this little troop undertook to effect armed only with the word of God, and his spirit. Church historians record that St. Jude preached up in Judaea, Samaria, Idumaea, and Syria; especially in Mesopotamia.
St. Paulinus says, that St. Jude planted the faith in Libya. This apostle returned from his missions to Jerusalem in the year 62, after the martyrdom of his brother, St. James, and assisted at the election of St. Simeon, who was likewise his brother. He wrote a Catholic or general epistle to all the churches of the East, particularly addressing himself to the Jewish converts, amongst whom he had principally labored. The heretics he describes by many strong epithets and similes, and calls them wandering meteors which seem to blaze for a while, but set in eternal darkness. The source of their fall he points out by saying, they are murmurers, and walk after their own lusts; for being enslaved to pride, envy, the love of sensual pleasure, and other passions and neglecting to crucify the desires of the flesh in their hearts, they were strangers to sincere humility, meekness, and interior peace. The apostle exhorts the faithful to treat those who were fallen with tender compassion, making a difference between downright malice and weakness, and endeavoring by holy fear to save them, by plucking them as brands out of the fire of vice and heresy, and hating the very garment that is spotted with iniquity. He puts us in mind to have always before our eyes the great obligation we lie under of incessantly building up our spiritual edifice of charity, by praying in the Holy Ghost, growing in the love of God, and imploring his mercy through Christ. From Mesopotamia St. Jude traveled into Persia where he suffered martyrdom. Many Greeks say he was shot to death with arrows: some add while he was tied on a cross. The Armenians honor him and St. Bartholomew for the first planters of the faith among them.
Commentary: If we desire to inherit a share of those abundant and precious graces which God pours forth upon those souls which he disposes to receive them, we must remember that he never imparts them but to those who sincerely study to die to themselves, and to extirpate all inordinate attachments and affections out of their hearts; so long as any of these reign in a soul, she is one of that world to which God cannot manifest himself, or communicate the sweet relish of his love. This is the mystery which Christ unfolded to St. Jude. The world hath not known him. Few even among those who know God by faith, attain to the experimental knowledge of God and the relish of his love, because few, very few, disentangle their affection from creatures. So long as their hearts remain secretly wedded to the world, they fall in some degree under its curse. And how few study perfectly to extinguish its spirit in their hearts!
(Adapted from Butler”s Lives of the Saints)