[Jesus] called his disciples to himself,
and from them he chose Twelve,
whom he also named Apostles:
Simon, whom he named Peter…
Simon who was called a Zealot,
and Judas the son of James,
and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.
In the early days of their ministry, whenever Jesus called out for ‘Simon’ or ‘Judas,’ more than one head may have turned. Among Jesus’ apostles there were two Simon’s and two Judas’. There was Simon Peter and Simon the Zealot, and Judas (or Jude) the son of James and Judas Iscariot the betrayer. Though these pairs shared the same names and the same calling to be apostles, they were different in important ways.
Simon Peter was called to be the Rock, the leader of the apostles and of the nascent Church. Simon the Zealot may have shared his zeal, but he was not meant to have the same role as Peter. Each saint’s apostleship was unique to him.
Sometimes Christians who eagerly desire to be saints themselves strive to impersonate their favorite holy heroes. We do well to learn from the lived examples of the saints, for St. Paul did say, “Be imitators of me, as I imitate Christ,” but there can truly be only one St. Paul, one St. Francis, or one St. Therese of Lisieux. Every saint in history has been unique, and every future saint will be, too.
The two Judas’ teach us a lesson, too. Even after years of preaching the Gospel, I can imagine some people felt an initial uncertainty towards Judas the son of James. Intellectually, Christians would know that this apostle could not possibly be Judas the betrayer (because he one took his own life,) yet they might feel wary about this “Judas” in their midst.
Sometimes our feelings toward other people are influenced by who they remind us of. For instance, if you meet someone whose face resembles a person who has hurt you in the past, you may be involuntarily uncomfortable around them. In psychology, this shift of emotions from one person or thing to another is called transference. This is the stuff that prejudice is made of, and the good apostle, Judas, caught some of its unjust, negative effect.
Though the apostles shared names and a common calling, they were unique individuals. The two Simons teach us that each is called to live out their own, unique, holy life. The two Judas’ teach us that we must always receive others in their own personal uniqueness.