|Devotion to Our Lady||
Son of Thunder
James—the Son of Zebedee and brother of the Apostle John—was a Galilean, and, with his brother John, one of the first of the Apostles whom Jesus chose and called to follow Him. While James and John were in a ship, with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, Jesus passed by and told them to follow Him, and they immediately left the ship, and their father, and followed Him. (Matthew 4:21-22). Jesus gave them the nickname of “Boanerges”, which means, “The Sons of Thunder” (Mark 3:17).
A Favorite of Our Lord's
Peter, and James, and John, were the three Apostles whom the Savior loved best; whenever He chooses a smaller number from the Apostles to accompany Him for some special deed or event, it was Peter, James and John that He took with Him. We see Jesus take them up into an high mountain, and was transfigured before them (Matthew 17:1-2); when Jesus went to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, to raise his daughter from the dead, He took nobody with Him except Peter, and James and John (Mark 5:37); and, at the last, just before the Jews arrested Him, on the night of the Last Supper, when He went to pray in the garden of Gethsemane, He took with Him Peter, James and John once again (Matthew 26:36-37). James and John were also present at the curing of Peter’s mother-in-law. Therefore, it is not just a coincidence that these three always seemed to be with Jesus at crucial times.
Thunders Against Sin
After the Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus into Heaven, James preached how that Jesus was God, and led many in Judaea and Samaria to the Christian Faith. A while afterward, he went to Spain, and there he brought some to Christ, of whom seven were afterwards ordained Bishops by Blessed Peter, and were the first such sent into that country. From Spain James went back to Jerusalem, where he taught the Faith to various persons, and, among others, to the Magian Hermogenes. Thereupon Herod Agrippa, who had been made ruler the kingdom under the Emperor Claudius, to curry favor with the Jews, condemned James to death for his firm confession that Jesus Christ is God.
The officer who led James to the judgment seat, at sight of the courage with which he was ready to offer up his testimony and life, declared himself also to be a Christian. He, too, was arrested and condemned to death with James. As they were being hurried to execution, this man asked pardon of James, and the Apostle kissed him, saying, “Peace be unto thee.” James then healed a paralytic, and immediately afterwards both the prisoners were beheaded.
The body of the Apostle was afterwards taken to Compostella, in the province of Gallicia, in Spain, where his grave is very famous and has become one of the chief pilgrimage destinations. Multitudes of pilgrims from all parts of the earth go there to pray. The birthday of James is kept by the Church upon this day, which is that of the bringing of his body to Compostella. It was about Easter-time (Acts 12:2-4) that he bore witness to Jesus Christ with his blood, at Jerusalem, being the first of the Apostles to do so.
St John on St. James
St. John Chrysostom gave a homily on St. James the Great, from which we will quote a few extracts:
“Let no man be troubled if we say that the Apostles were still imperfect, for the mystery of the Cross was not yet finished, the grace of the Spirit had not yet been shed abroad in their hearts. If thou wilt behold them in their strength, consider them such as they became after the grace of the Spirit was given them, and thou wilt perceive that they had trodden underfoot every vain desire. This is reason why their present imperfection is made known unto us, that is, that thou mayest see how great a change could be forthwith wrought by grace. But, nevertheless, let us now look how they came unto Christ, and what they said. “Master,” they said, “we desire that whatsoever we shall ask, thou wouldst do it for us” (Mark 10:35). And He said unto them “What would you that I should do for you?” (Mark 10:36).
“Not that He did not know not what their wish was, but so that He could give them answer, and so uncover the wound, to lay a healing medicine upon it. Their wish proceeded from earthly motives, and they were shy and ashamed to express it, and therefore they took Christ to one side, and so asked Him. The Evangelist says, “For they were gone apart, that they might not be discovered of them and then they told Him what they sought.”
“To me it seemeth most likely that they had heard how that the disciples should sit upon twelve thrones; they were desirous to obtain for themselves the chief places at this enthronement. They knew that the Lord loved them better than the most of the others; but they feared that Peter would still be preferred before them; and therefore they made bold to say “Grant to us, that we may sit, one on thy right hand, and the other on thy left hand, in thy glory.” (Mark 10:37). They were even insistent with Him, saying: “Grant to us, that we may…”
“And what did Jesus answer? To show that they were asking no spiritual gift, nor even knew for themselves what they were asking, nor would have asked it if they had known what it was, Jesus said unto them “You know not what you ask. Can you drink of the chalice that I drink of: or be baptized with the baptism wherewith I am baptized? But to sit on my right hand, or on my left, is not mine to give to you, but to them for whom it is prepared.” In other words, “You don’t know what you’re asking for, not are you aware of the fact that what you ask for, is not in my power to give, but it lays in the power of the Father. But if you say that you want and are able to drink of My chalice, then drink you shall, for that is something within My power that I can arrange for you.”
“See how He turns their thoughts at once another way, speaking to them of things altogether different, as though He said, “You come unto Me speaking of honors and crowns, but I am speaking to you of the wrestling and the sweat. There is no honor without the labor or the fight or the battle being won. Now is not the time for honor and reward, now is the time of the battle and the fight! My own glory will not at this time be revealed to you, but only after I have drunk the chalice and fought and won the battle.
“But consider how, by the manner of His questioning, He both exhorts and invites them. He does not say: “Are ye able to endure death or martyrdom? Are ye able to shed your blood?” but He says to them,“Are ye able to drink the cup” unto which He then invites them to His ‘banquet’ or battle, offering them “the cup that I shall drink of”; so that He may make them readier for the battle and fight, by making known to them that it is a battle and a fight which they are to share with Him.” (St John Chrysostom, 66th Homily on Matthew).