Thursday, July 26, 2007

St. James

Feast Day: July 25

This feast day of St. James is one that is always near and dear to my heart. It reminds me how saints can provide for us not only witness and example on the Christian journey, but they can also connect us to brothers and sisters in Christ in various places. My home parish is St. James Church back in New Bedford and so on this feast day I am thinking of that place and all of the wonderful people there. I'm mindful of important experiences I have had there throughout my life and in particular my first Mass which was celebrated there on September 17, 2000. I remember baptizing my nephew and nieces there, and of course, baptizing my Dad there.

I also feel a connection with the people of St. James Church in the tiny village of Medjugorje in Bosnia-Herzegovina. It is there that our Blessed Mother continues to share a message of God's love for us.

St. James is of course one of the apostles. There were two apostles named James - typically referred to as either the Greater (who we celebrate today) or the Lesser. Now "lesser" doesn't mean the other James wasn't a great saint, it usually refers to the fact that he was younger. The other St. James went on to write the Letter of James and was the leader of the early Christian community in Jerusalem.

St. James the Greater is the one we hear of in today's Gospel, the brother of John, who's mother asked Jesus if her sons could have a place of importance in His kingdom. Now, I have to say, this Gospel passage is very unfair to James. Here we are celebrating his feast day and what do we have before us but a moment of weakness. This is not what led to his canonization.

Instead we recall that James held a very special place in the life of Jesus. Of all the 12 apostles, there were three who seem, on the record of Scripture, to be closer to Jesus than the rest: Simon Peter, James and John. It was these three, and only these three, who were present with Jesus when he raised the daughter of Jairus from the dead. It was these three who were present on the mount of Transfiguration. It was these three who were with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane as He endured His agony before crucifixion. There was something special in that relationship. And, of course, James is reported to be the first of the apostles to suffer martyrdom at the hands of King Herod Agrippa (Acts 12.1).

But there is another characteristic about these three I want us to reflect on today. Simon, James and John are also the only three to receive a special name, perhaps even a nickname, from Jesus. Simon of course is called Peter, or The Rock. And Jesus gives to James and John the name, The Sons of Thunder, perhaps because of their passionate way of following Him.

I think it leads us to a simple question for our own reflection today. What name would Jesus give you to describe your living of the faith, your way of following Him? Would you be "rock solid" in your faith? Are you "thunderous" in your proclamation of the Gospel? How would Jesus describe you?

Let us pray that through the intercession of St. James the Greater, that Jesus would be able to give us a worthy name. Let us pray that we will have the courage to live up to the name He has already given us through our baptism - the name of Christian.

May God give you peace.

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