Liturgical Colour : Red
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the feast of St. James the Apostle, one of the Twelve Apostles of the Lord Jesus, also known as St. James the Greater, the brother of St. John the Apostle and Evangelist. He was counted among those, together with St. Peter and his brother, St. John, whom the Lord always called to be by His side during the important events in His ministry, such as the resurrection of the young daughter of Jairus, the Transfiguration and the Agony in the Garden.
St. James was among the first if not the first of the Twelve Apostles to face martyrdom in the performance of his work and mission, as mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles. The king Herod Agrippa was recorded as the one who arrested St. James and then brought about his execution as a martyr of the faith. But even before that, St. James had managed to perform his ministry in faraway places where his popularity remains to this very day.
It was told that St. James went to the faraway areas of Iberia, now areas known as Spain and Portugal, which were indeed far away from the land of Judea, from where the Apostles began their missionary journey. He preached the Good News of the Gospel in those regions, establishing the foundations of the Church and sowed the seeds of the faith among the people in that region.
At that place, which is now famous for the pilgrimage of St. James, or the St. James’ Way, culminating at the Cathedral of St. James of Compostela or Santiago de Compostela, it was told that, the Holy Apostle performed his many works, and even had apparition of the Blessed Virgin at that place, now known as Our Lady of the Pillar after the place where the apparition took place.
St. James performed many other, unrecorded missionary works and evangelising activities before he returned to Judea, and under the reign of king Herod Agrippa, as mentioned earlier, was arrested and beheaded as the first Apostle to be martyred. Yet, through his martyrdom, many more Christians took up the cross and followed his examples, doing even more work of evangelisation in many places, calling ever more people to turn to the Lord and accept Him as their Lord and Saviour.
In the first reading today, what we heard from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Church and the faithful in Corinth was in fact a summary of what we have just discussed. St. Paul himself mentioned how the faithful would be persecuted and be condemned by others, facing difficulties and challenges that would make their life difficult, and yet, in each of them, is found great treasure hidden in our physical existence, which he compared to a treasure hidden in a clay.
And in the same passage taken from the Epistle, we know what this treasure is. It is the Lord Himself Who has come to dwell in us, and share with us His love. All of us who have shared in the Lord through the Eucharist, receiving His Body and Blood into ourselves, and have faith in Him, are those who have been called from the world to be the Lord’s disciples and followers.
To each and every one of us God has revealed His truth, which He preserved through His Church. And through this, we are to share in the cross of Christ, which is the cup that the Lord mentioned in the Gospel passage today. And it is a reminder to each one of us, that we are also called to follow in the footsteps of the Apostles, to serve the people of God, one another, and to love God with all of our hearts.
Through the Gospel passage today, we are reminded, just as we have been through the life, suffering and martyrdom of St. James the Apostle, that following Christ is not one of seeking personal and worldly glory. The Apostles St. James and St. John came with their mother to the Lord, asking for special favours and positions above and over the other Apostles, at that time still thinking of discipleship in the worldly manner.
Indeed, the same can be said of us as well, those who are in the Church. There are indeed many among us who think about following the Lord and being His disciples in materialistic and worldly manner. But that is not what being a disciple of Christ is truly about. To be a follower and disciple of Christ means that we have to learn to die to ourselves and our ambitions, pride, greed and all sorts of things that prevented us from truly following the Lord in our hearts and minds.
Therefore, let us all pray that today and from now on, each one of us as Christians will be able to carry out our duties and responsibilities as followers and servants of our God. May the Lord also strengthen our resolve to live in faith, and to devote ourselves ever more to Him through all of our actions and deeds. May He inflame in us the spirit of faith and love, and zeal which He has also given to St. James and the other Apostles.
May He continue to empower each and every one of us to live with ever greater devotion to our role as Christians, in loving God first and foremost, and then loving our fellow men and women, at all times. May God bless us all, now and always. Amen.