In Luke 6, 12-19, Jesus prays all night and then He calls all His disciples together, and from among them chooses twelve to be His Apostles. The names are then given and they include “Simon called the Zealot” and “Judas [or Jude] son of James,” the two Apostles we and the whole Church commemorate today.
What is the difference between “disciple” and “apostle?” Are the terms interchangeable? Not really. Every “apostle” is a “disciple,” but not every one of Jesus’ “disciples” was formally called an “Apostle.”
The word “disciple” comes from the Latin verb discere, which means “to learn, to follow.” A “disciple” then is someone who learns from a master and tries to follow in his footsteps. The word “apostle” comes from the Greek verb apostello, of which the noun is apostolos. This signifies someone who is “sent out” on a mission, taking an important message from someone in authority. Such a person serves as an ambassador or an envoy. The English word “postal” finds its origin in this same term.
Jesus had many disciples, but just twelve of them were uniquely chosen to pass on His teaching after He had left them. They, in turn, would appoint others with the same mandate. Today, it is our Bishops who have that mandate. However, we might also say that every single Baptized person is really called to be both a disciple of Jesus and an apostle, charged with passing on the Gospel message. Every single one of Jesus’ followers is called to be the ‘salt of the earth’ and the ‘light of the world’ and to behave in such a way that people would be led to God. What a wonderful calling we have received!