Today is the Feast day of Saint James the Greater!
We first hear of Saint James, the son of Zebedee, when Jesus calls him in Scripture to leave his boat to follow Him. James, along with his brother John, didn’t hesitate in their response to Him: they dropped the nets they were mending and they followed Jesus.
Out of the twelve Apostles that Jesus chose, James was one of three who were privileged to witness important moments in Jesus’s life. Along with Peter and John, James took part in Jesus’s Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane and in the event of Jesus’s Transfiguration. In these two instances, he saw both the glory shining out in Jesus, as well the intense suffering and humiliation Jesus underwent in His passion. From these experiences, Saint James was certainly offered a unique opportunity to grow in his faith in Jesus. He witnessed that the Messiah, who was the expected Savior of the Israelite people, was clothed both in honor and glory, but also immersed in great suffering and weakness.
At Pentecost, St. James’s faith grew when he was gifted with the Holy Spirit. From there he became particularly bold in his faith and influenced many in his travels. He became a witness of supreme influence, so much so that King Herod Agrippa, in the early 40’s, put him to death. In Acts 12:1-2 we learn that the King “laid violent hands upon some who belonged to the Church. He had James, the brother of John, killed by the sword.”
Lessons we can learn from St. James:
1. Promptness in following the Lord’s call, even when he asks us to leave behind our comforts and security. Before knowing Jesus, Saint James was busy with his work. The minute Jesus called him to a new life, he immediately dropped what he was doing and followed him.
How many times have you heard Christ call you? Do you immediately respond when you get that tug in your heart to go to Mass? Is your Bible collecting dust on the shelf? Do you watch more TV than you do pray? Jesus is calling you to leave all the comfort and security the world has to offer you. He is inviting you to have an intimate and personal relationship with him.
2. Generous commitment to Christ. In Mark 10:35-45 we read about the ambitious request James and his brother John put before Jesus. In the beginning of their journey with Christ, they boldly requested that the Lord would give them precedence in the Kingdom of their Master. James wanted to be seated with his brother next to the King, and to drink of the same chalice as Him. Though this initial request was spoken out of presumption, St. James, in his faithfulness to Christ and his Way, became the first to truly drink of Christ’s chalice: He shared in martyrdom with the Apostles. His martyrdom was of the same cup of Christ’s passion, and by following Him unto the point of death, Saint James shows us what it means to be fully committed to the Lord, beyond the point of desiring honor and glory.
What does your commitment to Christ look like? How much time do you invest in your relationship with the Lord? Do you talk to Him throughout the day? Do you think of Him? Do you make choices based on your faith in Him and His will for your life? Jesus wants your full heart, not just pieces of it.
3. The Journey of a Christian is not all uphill. St. James was able to witness the highs and lows of Jesus’s life in His divinity and his Humanity. He was able to see his great glory, as well as the weaknesses He experienced in his passion. St. James, the man who sought glory in the beginnings of his journey with Christ, ultimately experienced the glory of living wholeheartedly for Christ, by dying for Him in martyrdom. He teaches us through his life that, should we pursue a life with Christ, we should be ready to be honored by Christ and experience great joys, but also ready to suffer with Him and endure great hardships.
What hardships have you experienced as a Christian? Perhaps, if you are totally comfortable in your faith, you’re not fully committed. Being a Christian requires sacrifice, discipline, and acting contrary to the ways of the world. It’s commiting to God’s will fully, even when it’s hard and requires suffering. Jesus desires for you to place your life in His hands, to be stretched according to His will, and to trust in both good times and in bad.
There is so much to learn from this great Saint!
St. James the Greater, pray for us!
All good giving and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no alteration or shadow caused by change. -James 1:17