We don’t know much about St. James whose feast is celebrated today. He and his brother John were fishermen who left their nets to follow Jesus. That, in itself, was rather miraculous. They were likely not rich enough to go off tromping around the countryside as companions to the Teacher who had called them to new life. What do you think was the inner knowing that impelled them and the others? And what might have been the reaction of their family to their decision? Whatever it was, these “sons of thunder” were willing to give their lives to and for the mission of Jesus. Tradition tells us that James was likely the first apostle to be martyred (noted in the Acts of the Apostles, chapter 12) so his commitment was firm for the rest of his life.
What stood out to me this morning in the narrative from the “Saint of the Day” section of the Franciscan Media site was the chronological information that is always found at the beginning of the saint’s biography. It read simply: (d. 44). We don’t know when he was born or how old he was at the time of his death, only that King Herod had James murdered in the year 44 of the Christian Era, about a decade after the death and resurrection of Jesus. Here I sit, on a different continent, 1,976 years after the death of this man, of whom I know little except that he left everything to follow Jesus. It comes to my mind that I did the same. My life is totally different from that of James. (I have never even caught a fish!) I cannot claim to have “seen the Lord” in the flesh. I can only testify that something called me to this life early on in my own and still holds sway 53 years after I left my home to follow Christ. That is, to me, a strength of Christianity – that simple people, fishermen and teenagers, as well as extraordinary people of every description have declared Jesus the Christ as their center point and way leading to divine life. That is a heritage, flawed and wondrous as it is, that I claim and celebrate with all the saints of the last 2,000 years!