Liturgical Colour : Red
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the Feast of St. James the Apostle, one of the great Apostles of the Lord and member of the Twelve Apostles. He is also known as St. James the Greater to distinguish him from the other St. James, such as St. James the Just, a relative of the Lord and first Bishop of Jerusalem, or St. James the Lesser, also known as St. James, son of Alpheus. St. James was also the elder brother of St. John the Apostle and Evangelist, as one of the two sons of Zebedee, as was a fisherman at the lake of Galilee together with St. Peter, St. Andrew and his brother, St. John.
St. James was one of the first disciples and followers of the Lord, who committed himself to Him and followed Him through many important occurrences throughout the Lord’s ministry. He was often chosen together with St. Peter and his brother St. John as the three disciples who accompanied Him during important moments of His ministry, such as the resurrection of the dead young daughter of the synagogue official, during the moment of the Transfiguration of the Lord at Mount Tabor, where he, St. Peter and St. John all witnessed the Lord glorified and transfigured before their own eyes, and lastly during the time of the Agony in the Gardens of Gethsemane just before the Lord was to be betrayed and arrested.
As such, St. James was one of the Lord’s innermost circle members and closest confidants. After the Lord’s Resurrection and Ascension into Heaven, together with the other Apostles, St. James went on extensive evangelising missions and ministry, where it was told by Apostolic tradition and evidences that he went all the way to Hispania, the region now known as Spain and Portugal, where he preached the Gospels and the Lord there, and it was also there that he saw one of the first apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, who at that time was still living in Jerusalem. She miraculously appeared to St. James in Hispania, in what is known as the apparition of Our Lady of the Pillar.
It was told that St. James was facing a lot of challenges and trials in his ministry, and faced opposition and hardships on his missionary journey which left him exhausted and discouraged by what he encountered. It was then that as St. James was praying, that the Blessed Virgin appeared to him, surrounded by multitudes of thousands of Angels of God, strengthening and encouraging him. This apparition gave St. James the courage and strength to finish his mission, and made him more fervent in his efforts to reach out to the people of the region and establishing the foundations of the Church there.
Later on, St. James would return to Jerusalem, and according to the records of the Acts of the Apostles, was the first among the Twelve Apostles to be martyred, when king Herod, in trying to appease the Jewish authorities and leaders, persecuted the early Christian communities and killed St. James, who therefore died a martyr for his faith. It was later told that his remains and relics were miraculously translated to where he performed his ministry in Hispania, where now stands the great Basilica of Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain, the site of his tomb and shrine today.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, the examples of the faith of St. James the Apostle, his hard work and contributions, to the Church and to the glorification of God should serve to inspire us to do the same. And if we are not confident that we are able to do it, then we need to again examine who St. James was, a poor, illiterate fisherman from Galilee, a mere fisherman living in the periphery of the Jewish world at the time, not at all destined for greatness. He did not have the pedigree, the connections and the necessary education and background for greatness and status at that time. And yet, through him God had done so many wonderful works, that the impact is still felt even to this day.
St. James allowed God to lead him on his way, empowering and strengthening him on his journey, that by God’s providence and grace, he managed to do all the great things that he had done, in the many miracles he performed, in the communities of the faithful he had established, and the many souls that he had saved, that although his early martyrdom did not give him a long time to perform his missions, but it is undeniable that he had done so many great things, all for the greater glory of God, and it was for all these that we venerate and thank St. James the Apostle for, and why we are all inspired by his great courage and examples.
Now, are we all able to follow and commit ourselves in the same way that St. James had committed his life to the Lord? Are we willing to devote more of our time and effort in following the Lord and being His good disciples? Each and every one of us have been called and God has bestowed each one of us with variety of gifts and blessings, opportunities and chances for us all to reach out and to do His will. What matters is for us to respond to God’s call and our commitment to walk faithfully in His path. Are we willing to drink the cup that Christ and His servants had drunk, the cup of suffering? And if we suffer with Christ, we too shall be glorified with Him in triumph.
Let the examples of St. James the Apostles and all the other great holy men and women of God inspire us to do more for the greater glory of God, in fulfilling our Christian calling and our obligation to live our lives most worthily for the Lord. May God be with us always and may He strengthen us always in faith. Amen.