Tuesday 2 June 2015

Where did the Apostles go? - St James

In this second short post for the Fast of the Apostles, I'd like us to consider the Apostle James, or James the Greater, to distinguish him from James the Lesser, and also from the James, the relative of the Lord Jesus who became the leader of the Church in Jerusalem. This James is the son of Zebedee, and the brother of the Apostle John. Our Lord Jesus called them the sons of thunder, or Boanerges. The distinction between them indicates that one was older or perhaps taller than the other.

He was one of the first to follow Jesus, and was called away from his fishing nets and his father when our Lord Jesus spoke to him and his brother as he walked along the shore of the Sea of Galilee. He was also one of the three disciples who witnessed the Transfiguration of our Lord on the mountain.

 Of course the Apostle James was gathered together with the other disciples when the Lord appeared to them after the resurrection, and was on the mountain when our Lord ascended, and was present when the Holy Spirit was sent upon them all as tongues of fire.

As part of the early Apostolic leadership of the Church he helped to make the transition from being followers of a living teacher, to disciples of a risen Lord. Nevertheless in the Acts of the Apostles we find the final notice of his life. It is written in Acts 12...

Now about that time Herod the king stretched out his hand to harass some from the church. Then he killed James the brother of John with the sword. And because he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to seize Peter also. Now it was during the Days of Unleavened Bread. So when he had arrested him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four squads of soldiers to keep him, intending to bring him before the people after Passover.

So we read the news that in about 44 AD the first Apostle was martyred even before the Church had spread out all over the world. More than that, St Peter had also been arrested and was in prison and likely to face the same fate. 

This is the end of the story of the Apostle James. One of the first followers and one of the first martyrs. Yet it seems to me that this ending is not sad at all, and in both his commitment to follow Christ, and then his willingness to face every sacrifice for Christ, even death, he provides for us an example of the Christian life we should all seek to follow. His death did not shake the Church, but was an expression of the Apostolic confidence that life in Christ was an experience of victory over death, even death at the hand of Herod.

Being martyred even as the story of the Church begins, he becomes one of the foundation stones of the Church, and sets the path that almost all the Apostles were to follow themselves, and which puts into practice the words of Christ which are addressed to us all, whoever loses his life will save it. Holy Martyr St James the Apostle, pray for us.

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