On Wednesday, July 25, we celebrate the life and witness of Saint James the Apostle, who is sometimes called Saint James the Greater to distinguish him from the younger disciple also named James.
James and his brother John were sons of Zebedee and Solome and were wealthy fishermen until Jesus appeared and simply said, “Follow me.” Without question they laid down their nets, left their home and became disciples. This must have been disconcerting for the family!
Once when Jesus and his disciples received poor hospitality in a town in Samaria, James and his brother suggested that they ask God to strike the town with fire from heaven. I wonder if Jesus was amused or annoyed as he nicknamed the brothers “Sons of Thunder.” Later John will get a more dignified identity as the “disciple Jesus loved.”
We know that James was present at some significant moments in Jesus’ life. He was at the mountain of Transfiguration, at the raising of Jairus’ daughter, and at Gethsemane the night he was arrested. It is James and John who asked to sit at the right hand of Jesus in the kingdom of heaven.
James played an important role in the early Christian community in Jerusalem and some believe he journeyed to Spain and preached the Gospel there. According to the Acts of the Apostles he was martyred by Herod Agrippa in the year 44, to appease Jewish leadership. As martyrs were not buried his remains were taken to Santiago de Compostela in Spain which has become a popular pilgrimage site. In fact, Diane and Joe Webb who attend Silent Saturdays just returned from a pilgrimage there and walked fifteen miles a day for five days on the Camino de Santiago which leads up to the Cathedral where his remains are entombed.
What I love most about the story of Saint James is the idea of Jesus giving him a nickname, “Sons of Thunder.” Who doesn’t love a descriptive nickname? If Jesus gave you a nickname what might it be.