October 28

Sts. Simon and Jude

St. Simon the Zealot and St. Jude, son of James, were obscure figures in the gospels. Simon was only known by his inclusion in the list of apostles (Luke 6:12-16 below and Acts 1:13). Jude of James (Luke 6:16 and Acts 1:13) was harmonized with Thaddeus (Matthew 10:3 and Mark 3:18), so was identified as "Jude Thaddeus." Some have even identified Jude as "Jude, brother of Jesus" (Mark 6:3 and Matthew 13:55-57) and, so, the author of the Letter of Jude. Beyond these references, we know little of Simon and can infer more about Jude only by association. So, their feast day celebrates not their accomplishments, but those of all Apostles, all those sent out by the Lord to spread the Good News.

First Reading: Deuteronomy 32:1-4

31:30 Moses spoke in the ears of all the assembly of Israel the words of this song, until they were finished.

32:1 Give ear, you heavens, and I will speak.
Let the earth hear the words of my mouth.
32:2 My doctrine shall drop as the rain.
My speech shall condense as the dew,
as the small rain on the tender grass,
as the showers on the herb.
32:3 For I will proclaim the name of YHWH.
Ascribe greatness to our God!
32:4 The Rock, his work is perfect,
for all his ways are justice:
a God of faithfulness and without iniquity,
just and right is he.

World English Bible

Deuteronomy 32 was a poem that recorded the last testament of Moses. It was referred to as a "song," yet was spoken, not sung in liturgical settings. The chapter was used as a teaching tool to encourage faithfulness on the part of the people.

The verses above were the opening to an ancient court case. Through the mouth of Moses, God brought the Israelites to court for judgment. Despite his kindness (32:7-14), YHWH charged the nation with a fickle nature that led to apostasy (32:15-18). If they did not repent and remain faithful, the nation would face destruction (32:19-25). If they remained faithful, God would defend them even to the point of violence (32:36-42).

The opening passage calls creation to be God's witness (32:1). His word has the power like that of water in a desert; it nourishes and brings life (32:2). Based upon these two verses, Moses proclaimed YHWH as his God (32:3), a deity with a solid character and just ways (32:4).

This passage foreshadowed the evangelical efforts of the early church. The Good News told of salvation even in a time of divine judgment. Despite the darkness, it was a good time to proclaim the goodness and justice of God.

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Gospel: Luke 6:12-16

12 In these days, it happened for HIM to go out into the hills to pray, and HE was passing the night in prayer to God. 13 When it was day, HE called out to HIS disciples and (HE) chose from them Twelve whom HE named "Apostles: 14 Simon whom HE named Peter, Andrew his brother, James, John, Phillip, Bartholomew, 15 Matthew, Thomas, James (son) of Alpheus, Simon the (one) called Zealot, 16 Jude (son) of James, and Judas Iscariot who became a traitor.

6:14-16 The names of the Apostles could be grouped into pairs; so the passage would read:

"Simon whom HE named Peter and Andrew his brother, James and John, Phillip and Bartholomew, Matthew and Thomas, James (son) of Alpheus and Simon the (one) called Zealot, Judas (son) of James and Judas Iscariot who became a traitor."

This paring does make some sense. The first two pairings were sets of brothers and were the first to be called. Philip and Bartholomew might have been the next to be called (see John 1:43-51; according to tradition Nathaniel was another name for Bartholomew). Here the pair seems to lose its logic. Needless to say, Judas Iscariot was listed last. (See Matthew 10:1-4 for pairings)

6:15b "Simon the (one) called Zealot" Scholars are uncertain whether the term "Zealot" referred to a formal group or was a nickname that recognized Simon's religiosity. There is no historical evidence that the radical political group Josephus mentioned in his "Great Jewish Wars" existed in the time of Jesus. It appeared in Judea several decades after his death.

6:16b "Judas Iscariot" Scholars are divided on the meaning of the term "Iscariot." It could mean "man from Kerioth," indicating Judas' origin. Other theories abound, but are more doubtful. For example, he could have been a member of knife wheedling bandits called "Sicarii," but, like the Zealots, the Sicarii did not arise until 40-50 AD.

In his gospel, Luke preceded major act or announcements of Jesus with a night spent alone in prayer. These vigils highlighted the unique relationship Jesus had with his Father. Yet, it is easy to overlook the personal danger Jesus faced at night in the wilderness. This danger echoed his Temptation where he faced evil, both physical and spiritual.

After the vigil, he summoned his followers to announce the Twelve, whom he called "Apostles." The number Twelve was significant, for it meant fullness in the Jewish mind and it modeled the followers of Jesus along the lines of the twelve Tribes of Israel. The number echoed the roots of Judaism, while the meaning of the number indicated a fullness in time; the day of the Lord was immanent.

The question remained: how would this fullness be achieved? The name of the group, the Apostles, gave an answer. These would be the advance team for Jesus, for the word Apostle meant "those sent." The pairings indicated in the listing of the names was reflected in the sending of the seventy two (Luke 10:1-12); Jesus sent these men in pairs to proclaim the Kingdom. But the missionary effort was an extension of the Messianic mission to gather the Diaspora into the assembly of the faithful. Jesus sent them out, but that charge did not end with the death of the Nazorene.

All in all, the naming of the Twelve meant more than a list of Jesus' favorites. It sent the tone for the nature of the Church. The apostolic ministry outlived the earthly existence of Jesus, for it is present to every baptized Christian. As the Twelve were called, we are called to go out and spread Good News, like Sts. Simon and Jude.

How are you called to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ?