Today is the Feast of Saint James the Greater
St. James the Greater (died 44 A.D.) is the brother of St. John the Apostle, and was one of Jesus’s original 12 Apostles. The title “Greater” was added to distinguish him from St. James the Lesser, and is believed not to concern status or holiness, but physical height. Besides being the son of Zebedee, what is known of St. James’s life comes after he and his brother were called to leave their father and their nets and follow after Jesus. James was one of the three apostles invited to witness the miraculous Transfiguration of Christ on Mount Tabor. As well, his righteous anger at seeing a Samaritan town reject Jesus inspired him to ask Jesus to call down fire on the town, which Jesus gently rebuked. Following Christ’s Resurrection and Ascension, James preached the Gospel across the Roman empire before traveling to Spain, where he spread the Gospel for many years. The famous “Camino de Santiago” pilgrimage path in Spain is named in his honor (Santiago is Spanish for James). At the end of his life, James returned to Jerusalem, where he was the first apostle to be martyred.
Credit: Morning Offering, https://www.morningoffering.com
Sharers in the suffering of Christ
The sons of Zebedee press Christ: Promise that one may sit at your right side and the other at your left. What does he do? He wants to show them that it is not a spiritual gift for which they are asking, and that if they knew what their request involved, they would never dare make it. So he says: You do not know what you are asking, that is, what a great and splendid thing it is and how much beyond the reach even of the heavenly powers. Then he continues: Can you drink the cup which I must drink and be baptized with the baptism which I must undergo? He is saying: “You talk of sharing honours and rewards with me, but I must talk of struggle and toil. Now is not the time for rewards or the time for my glory to be revealed. Earthly life is the time for bloodshed, war and danger.”
Consider how by his manner of questioning he exhorts and draws them. He does not say: “Can you face being slaughtered? Can you shed your blood?” How does he put his question? Can you drink the cup? Then he makes it attractive by adding: which I must drink, so that the prospect of sharing it with him may make them more eager. He also calls his suffering a baptism, to show that it will effect a great cleansing of the entire world. The disciples answer him: We can! Fervour makes them answer promptly, though they really do not know what they are saying but still think they will receive what they ask for.
How does Christ reply? You will indeed drink my cup and be baptized with my baptism.He is really prophesying a great blessing for them, since he is telling them: “You will be found worthy of martyrdom; you will suffer what I suffer and end your life with a violent death, thus sharing all with me. But seats at my right and left are not mine to give; they belong to those for whom the Father has prepared them.” Thus, after lifting their minds to higher goals and preparing them to meet and overcome all that will make them desolate, he sets them straight on their request.
Then the other ten became angry at the two brothers. See how imperfect they all are: the two who tried to get ahead of the other ten, and the ten who were jealous of the two! But, as I said before, show them to me at a later date in their lives, and you will see that all these impulses and feelings have disappeared. Read how John, the very man who here asks for the first place, will always yield to Peter when it comes to preaching and performing miracles in the Acts of the Apostles. James, for his part, was not to live very much longer; for from the beginning he was inspired by great fervour and, setting aside all purely human goals, rose to such splendid heights that he straightway suffered martyrdom.
Credit: From a homily on Matthew by Saint John Chrysostom, bishop; The Office of Divine Readings.
As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, Jesus saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him.
cf. Matthew 4:18, 21-22
Faith Without Works is Dead
14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters,[a] if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? 17 So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.
18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith. 19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder. 20 Do you want to be shown, you senseless person, that faith apart from works is barren? 21 Was not our ancestor Abraham justified by works when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was brought to completion by the works. 23 Thus the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” and he was called the friend of God. 24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 Likewise, was not Rahab the prostitute also justified by works when she welcomed the messengers and sent them out by another road? 26 For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is also dead.
Footnotes a. James 2:14 Gk brothers New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright © 1989, 1993 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Saint James the Greater, Apostle, Martyr, pray for us.
Be not afraid! And may the peace of Christ be with you and your loved ones today and always. Holy Family pray for us. Amen.