Friday, October 28, 2011

Feast of Saints Simon and Jude, apostles

(Ephesians2:19-22; Luke 6:12-16)

“Jude the Obscure” is the title of a novel by English author Thomas Hardy, but it might as well be the name of the second of the two apostles whom we celebrate today. Besides its appearance on the lists of apostles given by Luke, Jude’s or, since in Greek the two names are spelled in the same way, not the traitorous Judas’ name is mentioned only in the Gospel according to John where he asks Jesus why he will reveal himself to his disciples apostles but not to the world (John 14:22). It is not likely that this apostle wrote the New Testament letter that bears the same name.

Simon’s story is a bit thicker than that of Jude although all that we know of him comes from the distinction the evangelists make between him and Simon Peter. Luke says that he is known as “a Zealot,” meaning that he is passionate about fulfilling the Jewish law. Nevertheless, we should not think of him as a member of the revolutionary band that is known as Zealots a generation after Jesus. In Matthew and Mark, the same Simon is designated “the Cananean” which stems from the Aramaic equivalent of the Greek word zelotes.

The first three evangelists are in accord that Jesus intentionally chooses only twelve men to form his core group of disciples. They also show that the disciples come from different backgrounds -- fishermen and a tax collector, for example. The fact that Simon is a zealot about the Law while Matthew’s (or Levi’s) tax collecting downplays the Law’s authority further indicates that Jesus has a plan in mind. He wants his followers to resolve their differences as a sign that he has come to reunify the twelve tribes of the Kingdom of Israel. Inclusion of non-Jews into the Kingdom is also anticipated in the gospel, but it must wait the inauguration of the Church after Pentecost.