James, the son of Zebedee and the brother of St. John, is called St. James the Greater (so as to distinguish him from the other Apostle named James — a cousin of Jesus). Like their father, James and John were fishermen in Galilee. Soon after Jesus called Peter and Andrew (themselves fishermen and brothers) as His followers, He saw James and John mending their fishing nets; when He summoned them, they left their father Zebedee behind and became His disciples.
Though James and John deserve credit for their decisiveness in following Christ, this characteristic sometimes manifested itself as impetuousity and as a sudden temper. For instance, when a Samaritan town refused to receive Jesus, the two brothers wanted Christ to punish it by calling down fire from Heaven (Lk 9:51-56). It was perhaps for reasons such as this that Jesus gave them the title “sons of thunder.” On another occasion their mother Salome tried to ensure places of honor in Jesus’ Kingdom for her sons; this did not sit well with the other Apostles, and Jesus patiently explained that they did not know what they were asking (Mt 20:20-28). Along with Peter and John, James was a member of the inner group of Apostles; these three witnessed the raising to life of Jairus’ daughter, and also Jesus’ Transfiguration and the Agony in the Garden. After Christ’s Resurrection, St. James was one of the more visible leaders of the early Christian community in Jerusalem, and he was the first of the Apostles to be martyred. In 44 A.D. King Herod Agrippa had James killed by the sword to please the Jewish opponents of Christianity (Acts 12:1-2).
Other Saints We Remember Today
St. Christopher (250), Martyr; Patron of travelers
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