Thursday, October 28, 2010

Feast of Saints Simon and Jude, apostles

(Ephesians 2:19-22; Luke 6:12-16)

The names of Simon and Jude (really Judas) round out the list of Jesus’ apostles except for the notorious traitor, Judas Iscariot. The twelve form an inner circle of disciples whom Jesus appoints to judge the twelve tribes of Israel. In this light we might think of them as the Old Testament rulers in the period between the death of Moses and the institution of the kingdom. But we should not limit their purview to the bounds of old Israel. The new order which Jesus establishes is meant to include the entire world. To this end there are legends of apostles bringing the gospel as far as distant India and Spain.

Jude and Simon are placed at the end of the list because of their historical obscurity. Curiously, Jude has become one of the most prominent of the twelve perhaps because his name is associated with impossible causes which many people see themselves as having. As in the case of Jude, there is another Simon among the twelve, the one whom we regularly recognize as Peter. In order to distinguish the two in the gospel today, Luke mentions that Simon is known as a Zealot. It would be anachronistic to say that this means Simon belongs to a revolutionary band as the Zealots will become a couple decades later. But in order to understand the twelve as a disparate group united by love of the Lord, we may think of Simon as zealously faithful to Jewish Law in contrast to Matthew who may have been the publican Levi living an unholy life prior to his encounter with Jesus.

The homage we pay to Simon, Jude and all the apostles comes from their role linking us to Christ. They are sent to preach the good news and to lead the community which Jesus has established. If not for them, we would not be who we are – members of Christ’s body, the Church, striving to love faithfully with his Holy Spirit.