Feast of Saint Simon and Saint Jude, apostles
(Ephesians 2:19-22; Luke 6:12-16)
Toward the end of the calendar year, today we honor the least of the twelve apostles. With the exception of Judas, the betrayer, Simon the Zealot, and Judas, the son of James, are always listed last in the lists of Jesus intimate circle. Interestingly, in Luke’s gospel, from which we read today, Judas is listed before Simon. In Matthew and Mark, however, Judas, or actually Thaddeus whom we associate with Judas, has the final position.
We might ask ourselves why. It could be that these apostles are the most obscure. That is they left the least historical record. By the time of the writing of the gospels, at least a generation after Jesus’ death, almost nothing was remember of them. In any case the two offer us valuable instructions today.
Simon is mentioned as a Zealot, which is one particularly fervent about religion. In time Zealots will take up arms to free Israel from Roman rule. But it would be wrong to equate Simon with later revolutionaries. He does show us that Jesus includes all kinds of people among his disciples. There are tax collectors willing to cooperate with foreign rulers and zealots who mistrust Romans as much as cats mistrust dogs.
Because Judas’ name is the same as the traitor’s, in English at least we prefer to call him “Jude.” There are legends of his whereabouts in the first century, but for the most part his fate is unknown. Yet he has become one of the most popular of apostles. The reason for this is simple. Many people identify with St. Jude because they feel lowly like him. His popularity gives witness to the saying of Jesus that the last shall be first in God’s kingdom.