Feast of St James the Apostle (30 July)

Our Gospel passage is found in Matthew Chapter 20, verses 20–28

This week we celebrate the feast of James the Apostle, normally celebrated on 25 July. James was the son of Zebedee the fisherman and Salome, the sister/cousin of Jesus’ mother, and the brother of John, the Evangelist and Apostle. James was one of Jesus’ inner circle of three disciples who had the privilege of witnessing the Transfiguration, the raising to life of the daughter of Jairus, and Jesus’ agony in Gethsemane. He is in the first three of every list of the apostles in the four Gospels. Jesus called James and John ‘Boanerges’, or ‘sons of thunder’, probably because of their volatile character and high ambitions: they once offered to ‘call down fire from Heaven’ — the power he had given them for their mission journeys — on the Samaritan village which had refused Jesus permission to pass through their village because he was going to Jerusalem. Jesus declined the offer. Later, James was known as James the Greater to distinguish him from James the Less (the son of Clopas), who was leader of the Church in Jerusalem and wrote the Epistle that bears his name. The incident described in today’s Gospel shows us how ambitious, far-sighted, and power-hungry James and his brother John were in their youth with their impulsive and hot-tempered Galilean blood. They must have been shocked when their request prompted Jesus to make a third prediction of his passion and death, promising them a share in his sufferings. Jesus told the apostles that it was only the spirit of service which would make his disciples ‘great’, because he himself had come ‘not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many’. James’ zeal for Jesus resulted in him being the first apostle to be martyred for his faith. The greatest calling of a servant of Jesus is to serve others. James discovered that following Jesus Christ can lead to hardship, persecution, and even death, but the reward is eternal life with him in heaven. As we continue our journey with Christ, can we, like James, persevere with the same faith and hope?