Feast of the Apostles Simon and Jude

If we were to choose twelve apostles would Simon and Jude make the cut? We hardly know more than their names. Simon the Zealot, and Jude the son of James, also known as Thaddeus or Judas, patron saint of impossible cases, of hopeless situations. Having the same name as Judas the traitor, few people invoked him for anything, unless they were absolutely desperate! And Simon the Zealot is so undistinguished that hardly anyone knows he is the patron saint of carpenters, having suffered martyrdom by being sawn in half. How strange of Jesus to call such obscure men to be his apostles. What was he thinking?

What if we were to select twelve apostles, who would we choose? Wouldn’t John the Baptist be a great choice? Among those born of women there was none greater (Mt 11:11). A fearless defender of the truth, he would have been a great missionary if Jesus had called the Baptist to be an apostle and protected him from Herod’s axe! And Mary, Mother of God and of the Church, what a perfect choice she would be. In the Body of Christ there is no longer male and female (Gal 3:28), for we are all one in Christ Jesus. Choosing Mary would have opened the way for women’s ordination. She would have been at the Last Supper, ordained with the others. And Mary Magdalene, another woman, this one a repentant sinner. How many of us identify with her, and take courage from her example of conversion! She not only provided sustenance for Christ and the apostles during the public ministry of Jesus, but she also stood bravely at the foot of the cross side by side with Jesus’ mother. Women disciples outnumbered men four to one at the foot of the cross. How fitting it would be to have women numbered among the apostles.

Let’s not leave out Simon Peter, he’s still a good choice. Even though he denied Jesus three times he also repented and expressed his love for Jesus three times. He’s just too loveable in his bravado and for putting his foot in his mouth, like so many of us. And of course St. Paul is an obvious choice. He even called himself an apostle to the Gentiles. He was a great rock after his conversion, more solid than Peter himself. How many Christian lives would have been spared if Saul had been called at the beginning of Christ’s ministry instead of after his resurrection! Would Paul not have been a terrific pope with his clarity of vision, his zeal in the face of persecution, and his profound theological teachings? Peter and Paul have been united down the centuries, why not unite them among the twelve? And the next four are obvious choices: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John: the four evangelists. Matthew and John are already apostles, but Mark and Luke probably never met Jesus personally. How much more would they have written about Christ if they had been among the original twelve? Perhaps they would have collaborated together and produced a more uniform account of Jesus ministry, and spared us the Synoptic problem of who wrote first and who borrowed from who. Being there from the beginning of Jesus ministry, they could have put everything in writing right away, thus eliminating several decades of strictly oral tradition which has caused a good number of Scripture scholars to wonder what are the truly historical words and deeds of Jesus?

And for the last three in our revised list of twelve apostles: Stephen the protomartyr, Nicodemus the Pharisee, and Matthias are outstanding choices. Stephen, for his preaching and witness by being the first Christian destined to die for Jesus; Nicodemus, who could have prevented authorities from ever saying, “Have any of the Pharisees believed in him?(Jn 7:47); and Matthias, who replaced Judas the traitor. Think what scandal could have been avoided if Matthias had been called from the beginning instead of Judas!

But God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, his ways are not our ways. What is striking about Simon and Jude and the other apostles is how ordinary they were: none had higher education, none were influential movers and shakers in the upper social class. They were not chosen because of their holiness or great faith, for they were men of little faith. Only one was wealthy and that was ill-gotten gain, none were called from among the women who were so close to Jesus’ heart, or to be representative of the diverse peoples that form the Church. From this we may learn an important lesson: let God be God, let his will be done, let us walk contentedly in the way as he has designed it. For whether Jew or Greek, male or female, slave or free, we are all one in Christ. We have all made the most important cut, the call to be sharers in God’s divine nature, to be holy because of God’s presence within us. That is what the apostles Simon and Jude were sent to announce, and to give their lives as witnesses that God’s plan for us is entirely one of love.