25Jul July 25. Wednesday. St James, Apostle

2 Cor 4:7-15. The grace of apostolate is often carried in fragile, earthen vessels.

Matt. 20:20-28. Zebedee’s wife asks for favours for her sons, James and John.

James in the Gospels and Acts

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 is called “James the Greater”). But this equation makes us identify Clopas, 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.”

How Santiago de Compostela is linked with St James

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.

Following the Ascension of Jesus and the Pentecost inspiration, James went on a 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 Corinthians 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.”