Saints Simon and Jude are the saints of today, October 28th, as we approach the 500th anniversary of Luther’s perhaps-apocryphal pinning of his 95 theses on the door of the church at Wittenberg, itself a millennium-and-a-half after the life of the very real Apostles, yet about whom we know so little.
Simon was called the ‘Zealot’, which may refer to the fact that he belonged to the party dedicated to overthrowing Roman occupation of the Holy Land, or that he was ‘zealous’ in keeping the law of Moses. Either way, Christ channelled his zeal, directing it towards the salvation of souls and the building of His nascent Church. There is no gift, no energy, no ‘zeal’, that God cannot use for his purpose, even if we are at first unwitting of the direction in which He takes our life. As the saying goes, God writes straight with crooked lines…
From the early centuries, Simon has always been connected with Saint Jude, or Thaddeus, author of a brief epistle in the New Testament, clearly distinguished from the ‘other’ Jude, ‘who betrayed Jesus’. This Jude is also described as the ‘brother’ of Christ, with that term meaning any near relation; contrary to some Protestant revisionism, Jude was not the blood brother of Christ, for the obvious reason that Christ was miraculously conceived by the Virgin, who had no other children.
His epistle is but one chapter long, but vivid and filled with zeal: Here is the Apostle’s description of men of his time who had not the faith and followed their own base desires:
These are blemishes on your love feasts, as they boldly carouse together, looking after themselves; waterless clouds, carried along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted… wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars for whom the nether gloom of darkness has been reserved for ever. These are grumblers, malcontents, following their own passions, loud-mouthed boasters, flattering people to gain advantage. But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; they said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” It is these who set up divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit.
Hmm. Sounds sort of like certain men of our own day and age, but we must recall that these warnings apply to all of us, and if we are not mired in them, say that ‘there but for the grace of God go I’.
Both Apostles, driven by their new-found zeal, according to tradition, preached the faith in the regions of Samaria, Mesopotamia, Libya, meeting their end together in a glorious martyrdom likely in Persia. Their remains were brought back to Rome, where they rest under the basilica of Saint Peter’s, along with that of the first Pope.
Simon and Jude are often invoked as patron saints of desperate causes, of which we all have many. So seek their intercession, and channel all of our own desires to those of Christ, in Whom is all our hope.