On Saturday, October 28, the Church celebrates the feast of Saint Simon and Saint Jude. Despite having a feast day dedicated to them, we don’t know much about either man. They were named as apostles in the gospels, but Simon is never mentioned again. Because he is listed as “Simon the Zealot,” some theorize that he was part of a radical Jewish independence group called the Zealots, but there were several different groups with that name, so it’s hard to know what that appellation meant at the time.
In John’s story of the Last Supper, Jude (who is called Judas (not Iscariot)), asks Jesus, “Lord, how is it that you will reveal yourself to us, and not to the world?” Jesus’ answer is likely not what Jude was expecting: “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.” There is also the letter of Jude in the New Testament, which describes Jude as “a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James.” But we don’t know if this Jude is the same person as the apostle at the Last Supper.
Tradition has it that Simon and Jude were martyred while missionaries together in Persia, but it’s not clear which Jude that might have been. And other accounts indicate that Simon and Jude had separate, and peaceful, deaths.
All of this confusion over who exactly we are celebrating on Saturday, leads me to ponder all the saints and followers of Jesus throughout the ages who sacrificed something, sometimes even their lives, in order to serve God and God’s beloved children. We don’t know most of their names, and so they don’t have their own feast day as Simon and Jude (or Simon and Judes, plural) do!
But we are coming up on All Saints’ Day, which we will celebrate on Sunday, November 5. This annual observance gives us the chance to be grateful for all the saints who went before us, named and unnamed, known and unknown, ancient and modern, famous and anonymous. And it can remind us that we too, every one of us, can be a saint ─ whether we end up with a feast day or not. As the beloved hymn (293) concludes, “…for the saints of God are just folk like me, and I mean to be one too!”
See you in church!