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St. James the Greater, Apostle

Thursday July 25, 2024

St. James is one of the twelve apostles of Jesus and the brother of St. John the Evangelist. They were nicknamed "The Sons of Thunder". They were fishing with their father Zebedee when Jesus called them to follow him. St. James was one of the three apostles to witness the transfiguration of Jesus.

He is called St. James the Greater because he was older than James the son of Alphaeus, who was also an apostle.

The Call to Follow Christ

Like his brother St. John, St. James was a fisherman when Jesus called him to be an apostle. It was by the Sea of Galilee that the brothers encountered the Lord, who invited them to leave their nets behind and follow Him (Matthew 4:21-22). Their immediate and wholehearted response to this call highlights their willingness to abandon their former lives to embark on a greater purpose.

Reflecting on this moment, we are reminded that Christ's call to each of us is not a mere invitation but a transformative challenge. We are called to abandon our old ways and embrace a life of faith, love, and service.

Witnessing the Transfiguration

St. James was part of the inner circle of apostles along with Peter and John, whom Jesus took with Him on significant occasions. One such moment was the Transfiguration, where the divinity of Christ was revealed on Mount Tabor (Matthew 17:1-9). This extraordinary event left an indelible mark on St. James, further deepening his understanding of Christ's true nature.

As we contemplate the Transfiguration, we are reminded of the importance of prayer and intimate moments with God. Through prayer, we too can experience a transformation in our hearts and minds, enabling us to see God's presence in the ordinary moments of our lives.

Zeal for the Kingdom of God

St. James and his brother earned the title "Sons of Thunder," indicating their passionate and fiery nature. He was eager to defend Jesus and His teachings, even suggesting to call down fire from heaven to consume those who rejected Him (Luke 9:54). However, Christ patiently guided him, tempering his zeal and showing him the path of love and humility.

St. James' journey of conversion teaches us the value of channeling our passion for God's Kingdom with prudence and compassion. Our faith should inspire us to stand up for truth and righteousness, but it must always be accompanied by love and mercy for those who have yet to encounter Christ.

Embracing the Cross

James' faith journey took an unexpected turn when he faced martyrdom for his belief in Christ. King Herod Agrippa I had him executed by the sword, making him the first apostle to be martyred (Acts 12:1-2). His martyrdom became a testament to his unwavering commitment to the Gospel.

St. James' martyrdom reminds us that following Christ often demands sacrifice and challenges. In moments of hardship and persecution, we are called to persevere, knowing that through our sufferings, we unite ourselves more closely with Christ and become witnesses of His eternal glory.

His journey from a zealous fisherman to a devoted apostle who laid down his life for the faith shows us the power of Christ's grace and the potential for change within each of us.

His feast day is July 25.

Patron Saint of ...

He is the patron of laborers, veterinarians, equestrians, pharmacists, oyster fishers, woodcarvers, pilgrims, and Spain.

Daily Mass Readings for the Feast of Saint James, Apostle

  • First Reading - 2 Corinthians 4:7-15: As believers, we face challenges but remain steadfast through God's power. Though we endure afflictions, we carry Christ's life, sharing His grace, and anticipate eternal presence with Him. Our faith leads to thanksgiving for God's glory.
  • Responsorial Psalm - Psalm 126: When the LORD rescued Zion's captives, joy filled their mouths. The nations marveled at God's deeds, and they rejoiced, praying for restoration. Through tears and sowing, they shall reap with rejoicing.
  • Gospel - Matthew 20:20-28: The mother of James and John approaches Jesus, asking that her sons be granted positions of honor in His kingdom. Jesus responds by teaching about true greatness, explaining that those who want to be great must serve others. He presents Himself as an example, stating that even He came not to be served but to serve and give His life as a ransom for many.

Homilies and Reflections

Word On Fire: Embracing the Cup of Suffering

In this reflection for the Feast of St. James the Greater, Bishop Robert Barron highlights the ambition of James and John, who seek high positions in Jesus' kingdom. Many people can relate to the desire for honor and recognition. However, Jesus redirects their ambition by explaining that true honor in His kingdom comes through the cup of suffering. His crown will be made of thorns, and His throne will be a Roman instrument of torture. The key to honor in God's kingdom is the willingness to suffer out of love and selflessly give one's life as a gift. The lives of the saints exemplify this principle—rather than inflating the ego, they empty it out in loving service.

USCCB Reflection: What Made James Great?

In this USCCB video reflection for the Feast of St. James the Greater, the reflection explores the qualities that made James great. Emphasizing the importance of responding to Jesus' call with humble service, we are reminded that genuine greatness resides in serving God's kingdom with faith and action, demonstrating our devotion to Him.

Word On Fire: From Ego to Service

In this reflection for the Feast of St. James the Greater, Bishop Robert Barron explains that James and John seek leading roles in Jesus' kingdom, reflecting their misplaced spiritual focus. Though their request appears reasonable, they misunderstand the essence of power and honor. True greatness lies in serving others, not in selfishly pursuing personal gain. Jesus emphasizes that to be great, one must be a servant, and to be first, one must be a slave. Redirecting our ambitions from self-centered desires to selfless service allows us to participate in the greater story directed by God, rather than the play we construct for ourselves.

USCCB Reflection: Embracing Humble Service

In this USCCB video reflection for the Feast of St. James the Greater, the focus is on the importance of humility and serving others as a reflection of God's love. The reflection highlights the contrast between worldly desires for power and prestige with God's call for us to embrace kindness, gentleness, and love, serving one another as a way to honor Him and manifest His mighty power in our lives. It emphasizes that true greatness lies in our willingness to serve with humility and love, following the example of St. James and other apostles.

Quotes and Social Media Graphics

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Jesus called them, and immediately they left their boat and their father and followed him. St. James the Apostle, pray for us.
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Jesus called them, and immediately they left their boat and their father and followed him.
Saint James the Greater
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Saint James the Greater

Frequently Asked Questions

What date Is the Feast of St. James the Greater?

It is observed annually on July 25. The next date is Thursday July 25, 2024.

What are the Mass readings for the Feast of St. James the Greater?

First Reading - 2 Corinthians 4:7-15: Treasure in Fragile Vessels
Responsorial Psalm - Psalm 126: From Tears to Rejoicing
Gospel Matthew 20:20-28: The Request for Greatness and Jesus' Teaching on Service

Who was St. James the Greater?

St. James the Greater, also known as James, son of Zebedee, was one of the twelve apostles chosen by Jesus Christ. He, along with his brother St. John and St. Peter, formed the inner circle of Jesus' disciples and witnessed significant events in Christ's life, such as the Transfiguration.

How did St. James the Greater become an apostle?

St. James and his brother John were fishermen by trade when Jesus called them to be His apostles. They were mending their nets by the Sea of Galilee when Jesus approached and invited them to follow Him (Matthew 4:21-22). Responding without hesitation, they left everything behind to become Jesus' devoted followers.

Why is St. James called "the Greater"?

St. James is commonly referred to as "the Greater" to distinguish him from another apostle, James the Lesser (also known as James, son of Alphaeus). The title "the Greater" may have been given to him because he was older or taller in stature.

What was St. James the Greater's role among the apostles?

St. James held a prominent role among the apostles as part of the inner circle, along with St. Peter and St. John. He enjoyed the privilege of witnessing significant moments in Jesus' life, such as the Transfiguration.

What was St. James the Greater's personality like?

St. James and his brother John were known for their fiery and passionate nature, earning them the nickname "Sons of Thunder." His zeal for defending Jesus and His teachings sometimes led him to impulsive actions, such as suggesting to call down fire on those who rejected Jesus (Luke 9:54). However, he learned from Jesus to channel his zeal with love and compassion.

How did St. James the Greater die?

St. James was the first apostle to face martyrdom. King Herod Agrippa I had him executed by the sword (Acts 12:1-2) in approximately AD 44. His martyrdom became a powerful testimony to his unwavering commitment to Christ and the Gospel.

What is St. James the Greater's patronage?

St. James is the patron saint of various places and causes, including laborers, veterinarians, equestrians, pharmacists, oyster fishers, woodcarvers, pilgrims, and Spain.

Why is St. James the Greater associated with the Camino de Santiago?

St. James is closely associated with the Camino de Santiago (the Way of St. James), a famous pilgrimage route in Spain. According to tradition, his relics were taken to Santiago de Compostela, where a grand cathedral was built in his honor. The Camino de Santiago has been a popular pilgrimage destination for centuries, drawing pilgrims from all over the world to walk in his footsteps and seek spiritual growth.

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