St. Simon the Zealot was one of the most obscure among the apostles of Jesus. St. Simon is often associated with St. Jude as an evangelizing team. In this lesson we will study the life of St. Simon as presented in the Gospels, in the writings of the Church Fathers, and in the Catechism. We will also learn several prayers to him and have an engaging activity in honor of St. Simon the Zealot.
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In the Scripture section, we saw that St. Simon was called “Cananean” or “Zealotes”. What do these terms signify? Pope Benedict explains:
“In fact, the two descriptions are equivalent because they mean the same thing: indeed, in Hebrew the verb qanà' means "to be jealous, ardent" and can be said both of God, since He is jealous with regard to His Chosen People (cf. Ex 20: 5), and of men who burn with zeal in serving the one God with unreserved devotion, such as Elijah (cf. I Kgs 19: 10).;
“Thus, it is highly likely that even if this Simon was not exactly a member of the nationalist movement of Zealots, he was at least marked by passionate attachment to his Jewish identity, hence, for God, His People and divine Law.” (Pope Benedict XVI, 2006)
The Jewish Encyclopedia describes Zealots as “Zealous defenders of the Law and of the national life of the Jewish people”. (Kohler. “Zealots” article in Jewish Encyclopedia)
The Zealots opposed the Roman rule of Judea and some of them used violence. The Bible provides many precedents of the Jewish people resisting foreign rule. For instance, Mathathias refused to offer sacrifices and burn incense to a Greek god when Emperor Antiochus IV’s official demanded it at Modin:
“God be merciful unto us: it is not profitable for us to forsake the law, and the justices of God: We will not hearken to the words of king Antiochus, neither will we sacrifice, and transgress the commandments of our law, to go another way.” (First Book of Maccabees, 2:21-22)
Mathathias did not stop at refusing to sacrifice to the Greek god himself – he slew a Jewish man who was complying with Antiochus’ request and then slew Antiochus’ official. To ensure that no one would desecrate the altar, Mathathias destroyed it and fled to the mountains with his sons:
“Now as he left off speaking these words, there came a certain Jew in the sight of all to sacrifice to the idols upon the altar in the city of Modin, according to the king's commandment. And Mathathias saw and was grieved, and his reins trembled, and his wrath was kindled according to the judgment of the law, and running upon him he slew him upon the altar: Moreover the man whom king Antiochus had sent, who compelled them to sacrifice, he slew at the same time, and pulled down the altar.”
…And Mathathias cried out in the city with a loud voice, saying: Every one that hath zeal for the law, and maintaineth the testament, ...
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