2 Corinthians 4:7-15
Saint James was the son of Zebedee and Salome and the brother of John the Apostle. He was a fisherman and, as he was in the boat mending the nets with his brother and father, was called by Jesus. Both James and John immediately left the boat and their father and followed Jesus (Matthew 4:21-22). They put their hand to the plow and did not look back.
James was chosen from among Jesus’ disciples to be one of the twelve apostles. He was appointed to be with Jesus and to be sent out to preach and have authority to cast out demons (Mark 3:13-19). Among the Apostles, James was one of three chosen to witness the restoration of Jairus’ daughter to life (Mark 5:37). After this, Jesus sent out the Apostles two by two and gave them authority over the unclean spirits and the authority to heal every disease and every infirmity (Matthew 10:1-2). As an Apostle, James preached repentance to the towns and villages of Galilee and cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many that were sick and healed them (Mark 6:7-13).
James was also one of three chosen to witness Jesus’ transfiguration on the mountain. He beheld the glory of the Son and heard Jesus speak with Moses and Elijah about his exodus from this world. He heard the voice of the Father declare: “This is my beloved Son, my Chosen, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him!” (Matthew 17:1-8; Mark 9:2-8; Luke 9:28-36).
After the Transfiguration, Jesus set his face to go to Jerusalem. When the people of a Samaritan villages refused to receive Jesus on his journey to Jerusalem, James and John asked Jesus: “Lord, do you want us to bid fire come down from heaven and consume them?” But Jesus turned and rebuked them and they went on to another village (Luke 9:51-56). This gives us some idea of why Jesus called the two sons of Zebedee “sons of thunder” (Mark 3:17).
Before Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, Salome, the mother of James and John, approached Jesus and asked him to command that her two sons may sit at Jesus’ right and left hand in his kingdom. Jesus turns and asks the two Apostles: “Are you able to drink the chalice that I am to drink?”; “Are you able to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” That day they accepted Jesus’ chalice and baptism. They learned not only that they will suffer for Jesus, but that greatness in the kingdom is linked to service: whoever would be great must be a servant, whoever would be first must be a slave (Matthew 20:20-28).
After the Last Supper, after being sanctified in the truth by Jesus (John 17:17), James was one of the three Apostles who witnessed Jesus’ Agony in the Garden (Matthew 26:36-46; Mark 14:32-42). He had seen and experienced Jesus’ glory on Mount Tabor; he now experiences Jesus’ suffering and humility on the Mount of Olives. This, Pope Benedict XVI said, was an opportunity for him to grow in faith and adjust any triumphalist interpretation of the Transfiguration. James had to learn that the Messiah was not only surrounded by honor and glory, but also by suffering and weakness. “Christ’s glory was fulfilled precisely on the Cross, in his sharing in our sufferings” (Benedict XVI, 21 June 2006).
In the Garden, James heard Jesus speak to his Father about the chalice that Jesus would drink and that he would share. James, in fact, would be the first martyr among the Apostles: “About that time Herod the king laid violent hands upon some who belonged to the Church. He killed James the brother of John with the sword; and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. This was during the days of Unleavened Bread” (Acts 12:1-3). In his life and in his death, James bore fruit that would last. His confession of faith and the shedding of his blood strengthened the early Church. Now, in heaven, he intercedes for the Church on earth and sustains her by his protection (Collect).
Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians speaks about carrying in our bodies the dying of Jesus and manifesting in them the life of Jesus. James did this; he believed in Jesus, suffered for his name and knew that the one who raised the Lord Jesus would also raise him with Jesus and place him in his heavenly presence. By drinking the chalice of the Lord, he became a friend of God (Communion Antiphon). Today we ask the Father to cleanse us by the saving baptism of Christ’s Passion, so that purified on this Feast of Saint James, we may offer a sacrifice pleasing to him (Prayer over the Offerings).
Readers may contact Father Jason Mitchell at [email protected].