James was a fisherman like his father Zebedee and his brother John. He was on his father’s boat mending his nets when the Lord passed by. Jesus called each of them, James and John, to become fishers of men, to join him in spreading the Good News. Zebedee watched as his two sons left the boat to follow Jesus.
With Saint Peter and Saint John, James was a special companion of Jesus. Along with Saints Peter and John, James was permitted to see what the other apostles did not see. With them he watched as Jesus raised the daughter of Jairus to life. With them he was taken up the mountain to see Jesus shining like the sun, and his robes white as snow. This event is called Jesus’ Transfiguration. On Holy Thursday, the night before he died, Jesus led the apostles into the garden of Gethsemane. Matthew’s Gospel tells us he invited Peter, James and John to accompany him to a secluded area to pray. They watched as the Master’s face became saddened with grief. Then drops of blood began to form on his brow. It was a very sad moment, but, instead, the apostles were exhausted. They fell asleep. Another time, Saint James ran in fear when the enemies of Jesus came to took him away. And James was not near the foot of the cross on Good Friday. Later the Lord came to him and the other apostles on Easter Sunday evening in the upper room. The resurrected Jesus came through the locked door and said to the apostles ”Peace be to you.” Saint James and the other apostles experienced that peace after the Holy Spirit came on Pentecost day.
In the beginning of his ministry Saint James began as an impulsive, outspoken man. He asked Jesus bluntly for a seat of honor in his kingdom. He demanded that Jesus send fire down on the villagers that did not receive the Lord. But he had great faith in Jesus. Eventually, James learned to become humble and gentle. And he did become ”first” in a way he could never have imagined. He was given the honor of being the first apostle to die for Jesus. Chapter 12 of the Acts of the Apostles tells us how Saint James died for Jesus. As a martyr Saint James gave the greatest witness of all.
We can ask Saint James to help us recognize our weaknesses. He will obtain for us from Jesus the graces we need to be his true followers.