25Jul 25 July, Monday, Feast of St James, Apostle

2 Cor 4:7-15. The role of Christian apostleship is like a treasure  in a clay jar. The apostle is willing to die, so that the other disciples may have life.

Mt 20:20-28. The ambition of James and John – and their mother – for the best places, elicits Jesus’ teaching about the spirit of humble service.

The Apostle James

James, son of Alphaeus is often identified with James the Less, who is only mentioned three times in the Bible, each time in connection with his mother. Mark 15:40 refers to “Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses”, while Mark 16:1 and Matthew 27:56 refer to “Mary, the mother of James”.

Since there was already a more prominent James (James, son of Zebedee) among the twelve apostles, equating James son of Alphaeus with James the Less made sense. (James son of Zebedee being called “James the Greater”). However, it also made it imperative to identify Clopas, the husband of Mary, with Alphaeus, the father of the Apostle James. This identification was accepted by early church leaders and, therefore, tradition knows him more commonly as Saint James the Less.

James is described as one of the first disciples to join Jesus. The Synoptic Gospels state that James and John were with their father by the seashore when Jesus called them to follow him.[Matt. 4:21-22; Mk. 1:19-20] James was one of only three apostles whom Jesus selected to bear witness to his Transfiguration. The Acts of the Apostles records that Agrippa I had James executed by sword.[ 12:1-2]. This may have been caused by James’ fiery temper, for which he and his brother earned the nickname “Boanerges” or “Sons of Thunder”.[Mark 3:17] Contrasing this story to that of the liberation of Peter, F. F. Bruce notes that why James should die while Peter should escape is a “mystery of divine providence.”

His remains are said to be in Santiago de Compostela in Galicia (Spain). Saint James is the Patron Saint of Spain. The city where his remains are said to be held, Santiago de Compostela, is considered the third holiest shrine within Roman Catholicism (after Jerusalem and Rome). The traditional pilgrimage to the grave of the saint, known as the “Way of St James”, has become the most popular pilgrimage for Western European Catholics from the early Middle Ages onwards. In 2008 no les than 125,000 registered as having completed the final 100 km walk (200 km by bicycle) to Santiago to qualify for a Compostela pilgrim’s seal. (excerpt from Wikipedia).

The Santiago de Compostela Legend about the Apostle James

Saint James the Greater. Patron Saint of Spain, of pilgrims, of St James guild: workers, chemists, haberdashers and soldiers. James is asked to intercede for them by many people with rheumatism and is the Patron Saint of the city of The Hague. James is called Saint James the Greater as distinct from his fellow-apostle James the Less (equals “The Younger” or “The Shorter”).

Following the Ascension of Jesus and the Pentecost inspiration, James commenced his wandering ministry, spreading the gospel over Israel and then much further west, over the Roman empire. Then he travelled to Iberian Peninsula and arrived in the village of Zaragossa in Northeast Spain. His name in Spanish is “Sant Iago” but at first the Spaniards were not very responsive to his good news. One day whilst he was at prayer the Blessed Virgin appeared to him and told him build a church in her honour with a statue and pillar standing on the altar forming the name of this temple: “Our Blessed Lady of the Pillar”. James built the chapel on that spot to the honour of Our Lday and placed the statue on the pillar.

Some time later, James, returned to Jerusalem where he was captured and beheaded by the sword, under Herod Agrippa I, thus becoming the first of the apostles to die. His remains were taken by his followers to Compostela in north western Spain, where they found a suitable burial place. After the Moors took over the entire peninsula, in 711 the grave of St James was all but forgotten. Later, when Charlemagne conquered that area, large pilgrimages began to stream to Compostela. A chapel was built above James remains, replaced soon afterwards by a new and much larger Church, consecrated in 889. By the twelfth century Saint James’ tomb had become the centre of small town, Santiago de Compostela. The new Cathedral which still stands was finally blessed in 1211.

Since the early middle ages, Santiago de Compostela is the most visited place of pilgrimage, after Rome and Jerusalem, a practice that increased since Pope Leo XIII, in the Bull “Omnipotens Deus” (1884), formally declared the authenticity of the relics at Compostela. Pilgrims from all over Europe have been going there on foot, often walking for weeks or even months to arrive there, driven by the primitive desire to see what is beyond the horizon. The most zealous pilgrims leave for their destination from their own home town, but many commence their long walk to Santiago from either Vezelay (1600 kilometres) or St Jean Pied-du-Port (780 kilometres.) Cathedral: The apostle’s grave is to be found in the crypt behind the main altar. Pilgrims complete their journey by kissing the hem of the jeweled cloak that drapes the statue.

The Shell of St James: Legend tells how a pilgrim knight on a runaway horse fell into the sea and called on St James for help. The knight remained afloat and when got ashore, he discovered that he was covered with shells. St James’ shells are to be found on the Spanish North western coast at Galicia.

First Reading: 2 Cor 4:7-15.

But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies. For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.

But just as we have the same spirit of faith that is in accordance with scripture – “I believed, and so I spoke” – we also believe, and so we speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus, and will bring us with you into his presence. Yes, everything is for your sake, so that grace, as it extends to more and more people, may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.

Gospel: Matthew 20:20-28.

Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to him with her sons, and kneeling before him, she asked a favor of him. And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Declare that these two sons of mine will sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” But Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.” He said to them, “You will indeed drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left, this is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.”

When the ten heard it, they were angry with the two brothers. But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be our servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

Exod 32:15ff. The worship of the golden calf amid immoral revelry. Moses is to lead the people onward, and their sin will be punished later.

Matt 13:31ff. By parables, like those of the mustard seed and yeast, Jesus reveals what has been hidden since the creation of the world.

Despite our Sins, we will receive Mercy

As life moves along, earlier sins seem to meet with their nemesis. Sooner or later the poison works its way through the body so that it sickens, weakens and may even die. Even though God did not immediately punish the people for worshipping the golden calf with such lustful revelry, Moses is told that in due time it would be punished, for God’s ways are just.

Jesus spoke about matters “hidden since the foundation of the world,” quoting from the opening lines of Psalm 78, “Listen, my people, to my teaching. I will open my mouth in a parable, I will utter mysteries from of old.” This long psalm of seventy-two verses recounts the history of Israel, from the exodus from Egypt to the choice of David as king and Mount Zion as the sacred site of the temple. Through Ps 78, the first reading about Moses and the golden calf becomes a part of God’s eternal mystery of mercy and salvation, hidden since the creation of the world.

Each person, family, nation or race carries the seeds of destruction, as well as the potential for rising to new life day by day (Rom 6:5; Gal 2:19-20). Israel is not the only one to carry the memory of its golden calf and reckless revelry. We all hav a share in Israel’s promise and Israel’s blame. Like Israel we share the privilege and pledge of being the chosen people, intimately united with God. In Jeremiah we find the image of the loincloth to manifest this intimacy. “As the loincloth clings to the loins, so had I made the whole house of Israel cling to me,” says the Lord.

Exodus reminds us more than once that God is faithful to his people even to the thousandth generation. Yet in today’s first reading God says, “I will punish them for their sins.” If we combine Jesus’ parables with this statement, we get a fuller view of the process of purification. Because “Israel,” each of us as God’s chosen people, contains the high potential of the mustard seed, the mystery of good life is also developing within us. For goodness will triumph. The healthy body (God’s mystery of yeast and mustard seed,) will eject the poison (the mystery of sin and the memory of evil deeds). At the end we shall be found cleansed, healed and purified.

First Reading: Exodus 32:15-24, 30-34

Then Moses turned and went down from the mountain, carrying the two tablets of the covenant in his hands, tablets that were written on both sides, written on the front and on the back. The tablets were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, engraved upon the tablets. When Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said to Moses, “There is a noise of war in the camp.” But he said, “It is not the sound made by victors, or the sound made by losers; it is the sound of revelers that I hear.” As soon as he came near the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, Moses’ anger burned hot, and he threw the tablets from his hands and broke them at the foot of the mountain. He took the calf that they had made, burned it with fire, ground it to powder, scattered it on the water, and made the Israelites drink it.

Moses said to Aaron, “What did this people do to you that you have brought so great a sin upon them?” And Aaron said, “Do not let the anger of my lord burn hot; you know the people, that they are bent on evil. They said to me, ‘Make us gods, who shall go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ So I said to them, ‘Whoever has gold, take it off’; so they gave it to me, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf !”

On the next day Moses said to the people, “You have sinned a great sin. But now I will go up to the Lord; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.” So Moses returned to the Lord and said, “Alas, this people has sinned a great sin; they have made for themselves gods of gold. But now, if you will only forgive their sin – but if not, blot me out of the book that you have written.” But the Lord said to Moses, “Whoever ha sinned against me I will blot out of my book. But now go, lead the people to the place about which I have spoken to you; see, my angel shall go in front of you. Nevertheless, when the day comes for punishment, I will punish them for their sin.”

Gospel: Matthew 13:31-35

He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”

He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.”

Jesus told the crowds all these things in parables; without a parable he told them nothing. This was to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet: “I will open my mouth to speak in parables; I will proclaim what has been hidden from the foundation of the world.”


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