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”,and (2) “BROTHER OF JAMES”.
1) Servant of Jesus Christ
Saint 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 Savior. 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.
2) Brother of James
James the Less and Saint Jude were both 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 that 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,” meaning, “A man of praise, heart, or confessing,” and in the Vulgate edition of the Bible we read of him being called “Thaddeus,” meaning, “good hearted” or “courageous heart,” perhaps to further distinguish him from the traitor.
Later on, Jude wrote an epistle beginning with words which reflected the answer he received on Holy Thursday night at the last supper.