Pope Benedict XVI met with 35,000 people in St. Peter’s Square during his general audience on Oct. 11. He continued his series of teachings on the Twelve Apostles, focusing on the apostles Simon and Jude.
The New Testament refers to Simon as both a Cananean and a Zealot, two expressions that highlight his passionate attachment to his Jewish identity. The fact that Simon could live in harmony with Matthew the tax collector shows us how differences in the Church can be overcome through the grace of God.
“This is a clear sign that Jesus called his disciples and those who worked with him from the most diverse social and religious strata, without excluding anyone. He is interested in people, not in social categories and labels,” the Holy Father emphasized. “This is clearly a lesson for us, since we are often inclined to emphasize any differences and contrary opinions, forgetting that in Jesus Christ we are given the strength to settle our conflicts.”
Turning to the figure of Jude, also known as Thaddeus, Pope Benedict pointed out that the short letter in the New Testament that is attributed to him warns Christians “against all those who use the grace of God as a pretext for their own licentiousness and to lead astray their brethren with teachings that are unacceptable, thereby introducing divisions within the Church.”
He pointed out that Jude placed a strong emphasis on the fact that Christians must always remain true to their Christian identity.
“Amid all the temptations that exist and amid all the currents of modern life, we must preserve the identity of our faith,” the Pope said. “Of course, we will surely pursue with firmness and constancy the path of tolerance and dialogue that the Second Vatican Council undertook in a very felicitous way. But this path of dialogue, which is so necessary, must not make us forget our duty to rethink and to give witness at all times and with the same amount of force to the guiding principles of our Christian identity, which we can never renounce.”
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today we will examine two of the Twelve Apostles: Simon the Cananean and Jude Thaddeus (also known as Judas son of James and not to be confused with Judas Iscariot). We will look at them together, not only because they are always mentioned together in the lists of the Twelve Apostles (see Matthew 10:4; Mark 3:18; Luke 6:15; Acts 1:13), but also because there is little information about them apart from the fact that the canon of the New Testament has handed down to us a letter attributed to Jude Thaddeus.
Simon the Zealot
Simon’s name varies in the four lists: Matthew and Mark describe him as “the Cananean,” while Luke, on the other hand, describes him as “a Zealot.” In reality, the two words are equivalent because they mean the same thing. In the Hebrew language, the verb qanà’ means “to be zealous or passionate” and can refer either to God, insofar as he is jealous for the people he has chosen (see Exodus 20:5), or to men, who are burning with zeal in serving the one God with complete devotion, like Elijah (see 1 Kings 19:10).
It is quite possible, therefore, that Simon, even if he did not actually belong to the nationalist movement of the Zealots per se, was at least marked by an ardent zeal for his Jewish identity — hence for God, for his people and for God’s law. If this indeed was the case, Simon was the antithesis of Matthew, who, on the contrary, was engaged in an activity that was considered to be totally impure since he was a tax collector.
This is a clear sign that Jesus called his disciples and those who worked with him from the most diverse social and religious strata, without excluding anyone. He is interested in people, not in social categories and labels. The beautiful thing is that within the group of his followers, even though they were quite diverse, ranging from the Zealot to the tax-collector, they all coexisted together, surmounting any difficulties that you can imagine. Indeed, Jesus himself, in whom they were all united, was the reason for the cohesion among them.
This is clearly a lesson for us, since we are often inclined to emphasize any differences and contrary opinions, forgetting that in Jesus Christ we are given the strength to settle our conflicts. Let us also remember that the group of the Twelve Apostles prefigures the Church, in which there must be room for every charism, nation, race and human quality, which find their fulfillment and unity in communion with Jesus.
Insofar as Jude Thaddeus is concerned, tradition usually refers to him in this way, combining together two different names. Matthew and Mark simply call him “Thaddeus” (see Matthew 10:3; Mark 3:18), while Luke calls him “Judas the son of James” (Luke 6:16; Acts 1:13).
The origin of the nickname Thaddeus is uncertain; it has been explained as either coming from the Aramaic word taddà’, which means “broadchested” and would signify, therefore, “magnanimous,” or as an abbreviation of a Greek name like “Theodore” or “Theodotus.” Little has been handed down to us about him. John alone made note of a request that he made to Jesus during the Last Supper.
Thaddeus said to the Lord: “Master, [then] what happened that you will reveal yourself to us, and not to the world?” It is a question that is always relevant and that we, too, ask the Lord: Why has not the risen Lord manifested himself in all his glory to his adversaries in order to show that God is the victor? Why did he manifest himself only to the disciples?
Jesus’ answer is mysterious and profound. The Lord says: “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him” (see John 14:22-23).
This means that the risen Christ must also be seen or perceived with our hearts, so that God can make his dwelling place in us. The Lord does not appear as a thing. He wants to enter into our lives; for this reason, his manifestation is a manifestation that involves and presupposes an open heart. This is the only way we will see the risen Lord.
The authorship of one of the lettersof the New Testament that are called the “catholic” letters, insofar as they are addressed not to any one local church but to a larger circle of recipients, has been attributed to Jude Thaddeus. In fact, it was addressed “to those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept safe for Jesus Christ” (see verse 1).
The main concern of this letter was to warn Christians against all those who use the grace of God as a pretext for their own licentiousness and to lead astray their brethren with teachings that are unacceptable, thereby introducing divisions within the Church — “dreamers” as Jude describes them and their unusual doctrines and ideas (see verse 8).
In fact, Jude compares them to the fallen angels, and, in strong terms, says that “they followed the path of Cain” (verse 11). Moreover, without any hesitation, he labels them as “waterless clouds blown about by winds, fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead and uprooted. They are like wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shameless deeds, wandering stars for whom the gloom of darkness has been reserved forever” (verses 12-13).
Our Christian Identity
Today, perhaps, we are not accustomed to using such controversial language, which, nevertheless, says something important to us: Amid all the temptations that exist and amid all the currents of modern life, we must preserve the identity of our faith.
Of course, we will surely pursue with firmness and constancy the path of tolerance and dialogue that the Second Vatican Council undertook in a very felicitous way. But this path of dialogue, which is so necessary, must not make us forget our duty to rethink and to give witness at all times and with the same amount of force to the guiding principles of our Christian identity, which we can never renounce. Moreover, we need to keep in mind that our identity requires strength, clarity and courage, given the contradictions of the world in which we live.
For this reason, the text of the letter continues with the following words: “But you, beloved” — and here he is speaking to all of us — “build yourselves up in your most holy faith; pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in the love of God and wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. On those who waver, have mercy.” (verse 20-22).
The letter concludes with these beautiful words: “To the one who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you unblemished and exultant, in the presence of his glory, to the only God, our savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord be glory, majesty, power, and authority from ages past, now, and for ages to come. Amen” (verses 24-25).
We clearly see that the author of these lines fully lives his own faith, of which great realities such as moral integrity, joy, trust and finally praise, are all part, since all are motivated only by the goodness of the one God and the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, may both Simon the Cananean as well as Jude Thaddeus help us to rediscover anew and to live tirelessly the beauty of the Christian faith, knowing how to give a witness to it that is both strong and serene!