Today we celebrate the Feast of Saints Simon and Jude. You might think they are second-stringer apostles. After all, why lump them together on one feast day? Their names don’t help either. Simon is usually referred to as the Zealot (or the Cananean) to distinguish him from Simon Peter, and Jude is also known as Thaddeus, so as not to mistake him for Judas Iscariot; in some passages of Scripture he is identified as “Judas (not Iscariot).”
Our Lord had a more important mission for Simon than political agitation; in fact, Our Lord probably saved him from a fruitless death. The Zealots were founded in 6 A.D., during Jesus’ childhood, to resist the Roman occupation of Palestine, and were crushed by the Romans in the same year. That didn’t eliminate them; their spirit and sentiment continued during Jesus’ earthly mission and well into the time of Simon’s call to be an apostle. After Jesus’ death they rose up again and participated actively in the Jewish War that resulted in the destruction of the Temple and the fall of Jerusalem (66-70 A.D.), and then their stronghold in Masada was captured in 74 A.D.
Being an apostle is what tells us the most about Simon. He could have been a political revolutionary who ultimately failed, but instead he became an ardent preacher of the Gospel in Egypt and Mesopotamia. The feast we celebrate in a few days commemorates his martyrdom, along with Jude, in Persia (although there is an Eastern tradition that says he died peacefully in Edessa).
It’s ironic that St. Jude, who is also considered the patron saint of lost causes, teamed up with Simon, who dodged the bullet regarding a lost cause with the Zealots. He asked Our Lord a question in John’s account of the Last Supper (John 14:22), and the Epistle of Jude is attributed to him (although Biblical scholars debate the point). It is a short read, but couched in a lot of Semitic and biblical images and allusions. The central message of Jude is to put believers on guard against those who had infiltrated (my expression, not his), the community of the faithful to subtly corrupt the faith for their own interests.
Anyone who charts a course (and I’m not referring to anything involving GPS; I’m talking about printed maps, compasses, pencils, protractors, and math) knows that if they miscalculate even slightly at the beginning, they’ll end up way off course. Imagine the fate of St. Simon if Our Lord hadn’t put him back on course, turning him from the political to the apostolic.
In our own lives we all suffer the temptation at one point or another of questioning some detail of Church life or teaching, of changing course slightly to what is more agreeable to us, but even the smallest deviation can lead to a dramatic change that leads us far away from our true identity as Christians. Let’s do an examination of conscience this week to see if we need some course corrections. Don’t worry if you find out you are way off course; after all, St. Jude is the patron saint of lost causes. It’s never too late to get back on course.