July 24, 2017

Saint James the Greater, Apostle, "Son of Thunder"

Saint James the Greater

July 25th, the Catholic Church celebrates the Feast of Saint James the Greater, the Apostle and martyr. Both his parents, Zebedee and Salome were people of affluence and well-respected. His father was a fisherman of the Lake of Galilee, who lived in or near Bethsaida, perhaps in Capharnaum who had several hired men in his employ. His mother was one of the pious women referenced by Scripture who followed Christ and “ministered unto Him of their substance.”

James is called “the Greater” to distinguish him from the Apostle James “the Less,” who was probably shorter of stature. We know little of St. James’s early life. He was the eldest brother of John, the beloved disciple. According to the social rank of their parents, they were certainly men of ordinary education, in the common walks of Jewish life. They had opportunity of coming in contact with Greek culture and language which flourished on the shores of the Galilean Sea.

The Galilean origin of St. James in part explains the energy of temper and the vehemence of character which earned for him and St. John the name Boanerges, or "sons of thunder". Galileans were the fiercest defenders of the Jewish nation. When John the Baptist proclaimed the coming of the Messiah, St. John became a disciple and was directed to “the Lamb of God”. Later, he brought his brother James to Jesus. The call of St. James is found in Matthew, Mark and Luke. The sons of Zebedee, as well as Simon Peter and Andrew were approached by the Lord upon the Sea of Galilee, where they were tending their fishing nets. All four, "forthwith left their nets to follow Christ," and became, in time, "fishers of men".

St. James was afterward selected to the Apostleship. Together, Peter and Andrew, James and John, formed a prominent inner circle of Jesus, (cf. Mark 13:3). who witnessed the Transfiguration, and certain of His miracles, like the raising of Jairus’ daughter, and accompanied Him to the Garden of Gethsemane. Like his brother, James was active in the work of evangelization after the death of Jesus. Tradition holds he preached the Gospel in Spain after Jesus' Resurrection.  It is worthy of notice that James is never mentioned in the Gospel of Saint John.

James's martyrdom is the only biblical record we have of the death of one of the Apostles. He was the first of that chosen group to give his life for his Master. The Lord had foretold this kind of fate when He prophesied that both James and his brother John would "drink of the same chalice" of suffering as Himself. Almighty ever-living God, who consecrated the first fruits of your Apostles by the blood of Saint James, grant, we pray, that your holy Church may be strengthened by his confession of faith and constantly sustained by his protection. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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