Feast Day: October 28th
The apostles Simon and Jude are given the same feast-day because tradition holds that they were martyred together in Persia or Armenia, having carried the Gospel with great success to the pagan peoples north of Israel. We know precious little of what took place between Galilee and Armenia, but this, I think, points us back to the middle of their story, and asks a profound question: how were they changed by getting to know Jesus?
We are introduced to Simon and Jude early in the Gospels, at the point where Jesus chooses the 12 men called into particularly close relationship with him. There, at the end of the list, before Judas Iscariot is listed, we are told that Jesus named as apostles “Simon who was called the Zealot, and Judas the son of James.” [Luke 6:15-16; Acts 1:13 names them both in this same fashion].
Simon, we are told, is a “zealot”, a term that will, in a few decades, go down in infamy as the name of the violent revolutionaries who tried to kick the Romans out of Israel, and upon whom the anger (and might) of Rome was levied, destroying Jerusalem, the Temple, and hundreds of thousands of Jews finding refuge there in 70AD. Those terrible days were far in the future when Simon stood out of the crowd of Jesus’ followers and was named an apostle, yet this is the word that Luke uses to describe him when he gets to writing down his Gospel account of that morning.
Something in Simon’s character called to mind the zealous Maccabees who had revolted against their Hellenistic despots a century before Christ. (It is enlightening to recall that two of the Maccabean brothers were themselves named “Simon” and “Judas”, so our two apostles have popular names associated with the great heroes of a century before.) “Zeal” is the word also used to describe Paul’s fiery temperament, originally directed against those who believed Christ to be the Messiah, and after his own encounter with Christ, transformed into a fiery love for the Body of Christ, His Church.
In Paul, we get to witness the moment of that transformation, and though we do not get a similar scene for Simon, as he began to follow Jesus, his zeal as well was redirected and captured for the sake of Christ. We get the briefest glimpses of this process in the Gospels. On the one hand, Jesus offers all the apostles an example of true, God-like, zeal. On the Passover, in the Temple, seeing the money-changers he overturns the tables, looses the animals, and drives the merchants out of the house of God. The apostles can only have watched wide-eyed as their meek rabbi and miracle-worker tore through the temple precincts. One word came to mind: zeal. They recall Psalm 69:9 “Zeal for your house will consume me.”
Fast forward to a later Passover. This time Jesus has left the Temple and made his way to the upper room, this time it is not righteous anger, but sadness and compassion that fills his eyes. He takes off his robe, He washes their feet, He returns to the meal: “he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” And then Jude, the son of James, for the first and only time in the Gospels, speaks “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” How will you be made manifest? The people hailed you as Messiah and successor to David when you entered Jerusalem, do we now go the rest of the way and crown you king? When does the victory happen? What should our zeal look like? “Jesus answered him, “If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me does not keep my words; and the word which you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.” [John 14:21-24]
In this answer, of course, both men are transformed. Of course, Simon’s zeal had to be reordered from earth, to heaven. But his friend and companion, Jude, also had to reorder his own life, in his case his identity had to be reordered from earthly heritage, to heavenly. Both men encountered Jesus, and found in Him the fiery love that comes from His Heavenly Father. It is a zeal for God, and like God, and a love for God, and from Him.
– Fr. Rankin, has only slowly befriended Simon and Jude. It’s so much easier to relate to the more fleshed-out characters of Peter or John (or any of the many more recent saints we also know more about). But sometimes the Lord deepens our relationships with the saints simply on that spiritual level, without as many of the personal details we usually desire. Such was the case as He drew me close to St. Jude because my sister’s convent is entrusted to his patronage, and St. Simon, in that wrestling match to give my zeal to the Lord.