Once more we find ourselves with two apostles of which we only seem to know their names. Jude is mentioned by the Evangelist Luke like that of James, without doubt to distinguish him from the Iscariot. Instead of Jude, in the list of the Twelve in Matthew and Mark, there is the figure Thaddeus, a tradition conformist that has identified both characters and the popular devotion has venerated St. Jude Thaddeus; but nothing assures us that it is a question of two names for the same person.
We really don’t know more than the names from these two followers of Jesus. It is a reliable historical fact, since nobody would have arbitrarily placed their names in the list as disciples of Jesus.
This apostle only appears in the list of the Twelve. He is designated as “the Canaanite” (Mc 3:18; Mt 10:4) or as “the zealot” (Lk 6:15; Acts 1:13). To transcribe the lists, they carefully avoid his attributes so as not to confuse him with Simon Peter.
There is a frequent error in the understanding of the term zealot in the evangelical tradition, by identifying it with a political and armed rebel that attacks the civil or military representatives of the Roman occupation; that meaning does not correspond to the time of Jesus, but to the practice some 35 years after his death. The word means any law-abiding, scrupulous Jew, whose greatest concern is for the other Jews; if one becomes violent, it is against the Jewish law; even Paul describes himself as a zealot (Gal 1:14; Phil 3:6); and, according to Acts 21:20, there are already thousands of Judeo-Christians zealous of the law.
From here we learn something more about Simon as part of Jesus’ group. He had to convert, changing his way of thinking; a difficult learning process because he was integrated into a group and following a leader who was concerned about the undesirable, with “publicans and sinners” (Mk 2:15-17).
This also tells us a lot about the environment of Jesus and about Jesus himself: by following Jesus one would rub shoulders with tax collectors, public sinners, and rigid observers; Jesus wanted to bring everyone in Israel together. For Jesus there is no room for exclusion or sectarianism, nor can one call for any recourse to violence, but only for tolerance and generous acceptance.
Meekness was for Fr. Claret a distinctive point of the missionary. He had reason to express his disagreement and protest against many things, particularly against the fact in seeing the rights of God constantly violated, something to which he could not be indifferent. He also understood that the evangelical attitude was more effective in the long run. It was meekness which would reject anger:
“I am of the opinion that one has to preach and catechize fortiter et suaviter and with honey one will gather more flies of sinners and wicked than with all the acidity and vinegar from the world. In general, when dealing with people, we will do more harm than good, because the sick avoid and the weak become lost. There were times I wanted to assert terror and I always repented. I have never had to repent of being soft, mainly if it makes them see the love that they have, they will not be looking to any interest, but away from the temporary and eternal evils, so it provides them with the temporal and heavenly goods” (3, p. 45).
In the meditation Exercises of St Ignatius on meekness, three purposes are given: “1. To have a heart so loving for everyone, that you move away from warning and being deliberate, not suspicious, judgmental, contempt, resentful or angry against your neighbor. 2. Presenting yourself; treat everyone and in all circumstances amicably and with sincerity of affection. 3. Tolerated in silence any offense that your neighbor makes and if you can, return good for evil” (2, p. 274).
“I was shocked the first time I read these words of the holy Apostle (James 3:13-15), to see science without sweetness, without meekness is called diabolical. Jesus, diabolical!… Yes diabolic which is and I know also by the experience that bitter zeal is a weapon which gives worth to the devil and the priest who works without meekness serves the devil and not Jesus Christ. If he preaches, he scares away the listeners, and if he hears confession, it scares away the penitents and the confessor does wrong. They are bad because they stun and cover the sins by fear. I have heard many confessions from penitents who had silenced their sins because the confessors had reprimanded them harshly” (Aut 376).
Its name, very frequent in Judaism could mean God be praised. This member of the group of the Twelve is called in the Gospel of Luke – Acts, who which ranked eleventh, Jude son of James, certainly not to be confused with the Iscariot. Instead of him in the Gospel of Matthew-Mark (in tenth place, because Simon the Canaanite occupies the eleventh) appears Thaddeus, who has taken the conformist tradition and in popular devotion there is talk of St. Jude Thaddeus; but nothing assures us that it is the same person, but only that the early Church insisted that the various lists of apostles were identical.
The generative of James has been interpreted at times as a brother of James (cf. Judas: 1), but the most likely interpretation is the son of James, according to the most frequent form of identifying the persons at that time.
Those who opt for brothers, think of the brothers of Jesus that are spoken of in Mk 6:3: James, Joseph, Judas and Simon; and certainly they want to make reference to the head of the pseudonym letter of Jude. In our case it is presented as a possibility since a close relative of Jesus is designated with such title instead of a mere disciple. We have to take seriously the bitter lament of Jn. 7:5, according to which during the ministry of Jesus, “his brothers did not believe in him,” or Mk. 3:21: “they went out to seize him, for people were saying: he is beside himself;” is not likely that among the Twelve there are relatives of Jesus.
We cannot determine more the parentage of this Apostle Jude. Nothing tells us that his father, James, should be identified with any of the other four James’ known in the New Testament: the brother of the Lord, the son of Zebedee, James the son of Alphaeus, or James the less; who was a name (Jakob) too common in Judaism, thus, why make this distinction. About the Apostle Jude our knowledge is virtually null.
With his anonymity, this Apostle reminds us of something very important in the life of the missionary: not focusing on oneself, so as not to forget that it is Jesus who is preaching. Father Founder gives an enormous importance to humility and not seeking prestige.
“This is what led me to resolve never to talk about my preaching but to preach as well as I could and leave the rest in God’s hands. If anyone offered me some advice on my preaching, I would accept it gratefully, without excusing my practice or giving reason for it. Then I would try to correct any fault as best I could” (Aut 400).
“I have already observed that some people act like hens which having laid an egg, begin to cackle and so lose it. This is the case of some ill-advised priests who after they have done some good deed or heard confession or given a sermon, go around looking for little tidbits to satisfy their vanity. They talk complacently about what they’ve said. Just as I, myself am disgusted listening to such talk, I can well imagine that I would disgust others if I were to do the same. So I resolved never at all to talk about these things” (Aut 401).
Claret is not interested in historical criticism, as the possibility of any pastoral and spiritual application. He stressed these traits of Saints Simon and Jude:
“Simon, called the Canaanites because he was born in the city of Cana, in the province of Galilee. He may have been the husband of the Wedding at Cana, to which the Divine Savior and his Blessed Mother were invited and where Jesus made the first miracle, as some Scholar mention or someone different. What we cannot doubt and which form the merit of this saint, is that when he heard Jesus, he believed in him with all his heart, and was resolved to leave everything to follow Jesus; despised, without honors, greatness, and other retinues that those who voluntarily wanted to follow him when he preached in cities and villages, and healing the sick who were brought to him. He did not recognize another master; he did not ever lose sight, and was witness to all its wonders; he did not separate himself from Jesus’ doctrine and was illuminated with the light of faith, always keeping this in his heart. What we cannot doubt is that Jesus Christ chose him to be one of his apostles, and this single choice for so high a ministry alone is more than we can say in his praise.
St. Jude called Thaddaeus, who was a brother of James the Less, sons of Alphaeus and Mary; a family so well known in the Gospel by his love for Jesus Christ, by being an immediate relative of Mary. This is why he is called as James, brother of the Lord, according to the custom of the Jews. He took a very long time to get to know Jesus, follow him and be one of his Apostles. His early faith and life is revealed to us in the love that he always had for Jesus Christ, in the company that he shared with Jesus Christ, witnessing and steadfastness to continue to follow Jesus Christ; and on the generosity with which he left everything to follow Jesus Christ appearing always as a friend of his Divine Master.
[…] He was coated with the virtue from on high, then the Holy Spirit came upon him, nothing could contain him from announcing with words his faith from his heart, to proclaim from the rooftop what he had heard in the company of Jesus, to cast this in face to the Jews for their crimes […] Without more desire than to bear his name and faith throughout the world, without other ambitions that may hinder the kingdom of Jesus, without other hopes than to suffer and shed his blood by confessing, without other preparations other than zeal […]” (1, pp. 380-386).
- CLARET. Collection of selected panegyrics, t. V, Barcelona 1860.
- CLARET. Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius explained, Madrid 1859.
- CLARET. Manuscripts, t. X, edited in J. M. LOZANO, TCS, Barcelona 1972.
- MEIER, J. P., A marginal Jew, t. III, Estella 2004.
- ODELAIN, O. AND SÉGUINEAU, R., Dictionnaire des noms propres of the Bible, Paris 1978.