Saint James (the Greater), Apostle Saint James the Greater was one of the apostles closest to Jesus; the others being his younger brother, Saint John the Evangelist and Saint Peter. He is not to be confused with James the Lesser, another one of the twelve apostles, or with James from the Acts of the Apostles who was the author of the Letter of James and the leader of the Jerusalem community.
By the Gospels’ accounts, James, born in Galilee, was an ordinary fisherman who showed no signs of being readily able to grasp the genius of his master’s life and ministry. He and his brother were even considered “hotheads” as Jesus gave them the nickname “Sons of Thunder” (Mark 3:17).
On one occasion, when a Samaritan village refused hospitality to Jesus, they urged him to call down fire from heaven to destroy it, which prompted a stern rebuke from their teacher (Luke 9:51-56).
On another occasion, with uncomprehending ambition, James and his brother made a daring request to sit at Jesus’ left and right hands, places of honor in the glory of the kingdom of God. Jesus warns them of the suffering and hardship they will eventually endure in Jesus’ name (Mk 10:35-40).
What makes this ordinary, impulsive man a stewardship saint, however, is that he allowed Jesus’ call to discipleship to cut through his ordinary, everyday life. His response was instant, complete and single-minded.
James and John were working on their boats with their father, Zebedee, when Jesus calls them to follow him. “And at once, leaving the boat and their father, they follow him” (Mt 4:22).
It was a call to share in Jesus’ mission, a call that allowed for no other priority.
James’ response in faith models what the response of each Christian disciple is to be to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
James is also privileged to be one of the apostles chosen by Jesus to witness his most dramatic signs of power: his Transfiguration and the raising to life of Jairus’ daughter.
James was the first of the Twelve to suffer martyrdom. He was beheaded during the persecution of Herod Agrippa I between the years 42 and 44 (Acts 12: 1-3).
Later traditions hold that James actually preached in Spain or that at least his body was transferred from Jerusalem to Compestela in Spain, which, in any case became a major pilgrimage site in the Middle Ages. Saint James the Greater is the patron saint of Spain, Chile, Guatemala and Nicaragua. He is also the patron saint of pilgrims, pharmacists, laborers and those suffering from arthritis. His feast is celebrated on July 25.
I hope you are inspired by the story of Saint James the Greater and can follow his example of following Jesus’ call to discipleship. It’s who we are when we call ourselves Christians. We need to mindfully act like one.