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ONE OF THE INNER CIRCLE

Father Francis's picture
Saint James

Saint James and his brother, John the beloved disciple, were given the nickname 'Boanerges' meaning the 'Sons of Thunder' by Jesus: does this suggest that they were impulsive or quick tempered? But whatever the reason He knew they could be made into effective Apostles to preach the good news.

Like his father and brother James was a fisherman. He was called to be an Apostle while mending nets, soon becoming one of Jesus' closes friends and sharing many of the important moments of His life. He was privileged to be present with Peter and John at the raising of Jairus' daughter, at the Transfiguration and at the Garden of Gethsemane.

James died at Jerusalem, where he had been Bishop, in the year 44. Around the year 830 his body was reburied at Compostella ('the field of stars') in Spain, and his shrine is still a well-loved pilgrimage centre.

Today's Gospel reveals the worldly ambition of James and his brother. They made their request after Jesus had told them He would have to face an inescapable cross. Were they thinking of personal success without personal sacrifice? When everything seemed to show Jesus facing defeat they still believed that He would be victorious and wanted to be a part of that victory. This teaches us that in moments of despair, when everything around us seems to be hopeless, we must have this invincible optimism that in the end, along with Jesus, we will win. It demonstrates the unshakable loyalty of the Apostles even after they had been told that there lay ahead a bitter cup. It never struck them to turn back; they were determined to drink it. If to conquer with Christ meant to suffer with Christ, they were perfectly willing to face that suffering.

Today's Gospel sheds light, too, upon the Christian life. Jesus said that those who would share His triumph must drink His cup. What was that cup? It was to James and John that Jesus spoke. Life treated them both very differently. James was the first of the Apostles to die a martyr. For him the cup was martyrdom. But tradition tells us that John lived to a great old age in Ephesus and died a natural death. For him the cup was the constant discipline and struggle of the Christian life throughout the years.

It is quite wrong to think that for the Christian the cup must always mean the short, sharp, bitter, agonising struggle of martyrdom; it may well be the long routine of living the Christian life with all its daily sacrifice, struggle, heartbreaks, disappointments and tears. To drink the cup simply means to follow Christ, wherever He may lead and to be like Him in any situation life may bring.

James' most notable virtue is his loyalty and devotion to Jesus. As we celebrate his feast day, let us ask ourselves how devoted are we in our prayer life, at Mass, in our reception of Holy Communion, in our frequent visits to Confession? Surely there is room for improvement?

May Saint James help us to remain loyal and loving to Jesus our God. We thank him for his example and reverence him as one of the 12 foundation stones of our Church.