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St. James the Greater

Homily for the Feast of St. James the Greater

St. James the Greater

The Gospel for today offers us the opportunity to ask ourselves why we follow Jesus. The mother of James and John approaches Jesus and asks that her sons be rewarded for following Him. This attitude is certainly not unusual. I think it is fair to say that we all have acted at one time or another in order to gain the reward that comes with the task.

Jesus responds to this request by asking these two apostles to accept the cup of suffering with him before expecting any reward. He goes on to ask us to be humble and faithful to him, but to leave the rewarding part to God.

In the first reading, St. Paul reminds us that we have already been rewarded. We have been given a treasure. We carry that treasure within ourselves. The treasure is Jesus himself who gives us the power to overcome all the suffering and difficulties of life that are part of following Jesus. That is in itself a reward far greater than any other we might be given in this life.

The man we celebrate today is called St. James the Greater, signifying that he is the older of the two apostles who bear that name. St. James the Lesser is the son of Alphaeus and is sometimes referred to as the brother of Jesus. One other man by the name of James appears in the Scriptures as the author of the Letter of St. James. He is usually referred to as St. James the Just.

St. James the Greater was the first of the apostles to give his life for the sake of the Gospel. He was beheaded by Herod Agrippa in the year 44, about eleven years after Jesus died on the cross. He was privileged to be present when Jesus cured Peter’s mother-in-law, when he raised the daughter of the synagogue official, when Jesus was transfigured, and during the agony in the garden. The sanctuary that contains his relics is one of the great destinations for pilgrims in Galicia, a province of Spain. With the entire Church we give thanks to God for the life and ministry of the Apostle James.

Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator

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