In His Footsteps:
St. James the Greater Apostle
For James there was no indication that this was the day that his life would change. The dawn for him was not the bright beginning of a new day, but the end of long fruitless night of fishing. As James sat mending his nets in the boat with his brother John and his father Zebedee, he must have watched in wonder as his partner Simon brought in nets loaded with fish he had caught at the command of Jesus. Was he shocked when he saw Simon and his brother Andrew walk away from this incredible catch at a word from this same Jesus?
As he watched Jesus walk toward him followed by Simon and Andrew, did he feel curiosity, fear, hope, envy? Jesus didn't pass him by but, stopping by their boat, called James and his brother John to do just what Simon and Andrew had done. Without argument or discussion, James and John left their boat and even their father behind, and followed Jesus.
The first thing James saw after he followed Jesus was his teaching with authority in the synagogue and the cure of Simon's mother-in-law.
We all know that Jesus was the focus of James' life from then on, but it is also evident that James held a special place in Jesus' life.
He was chosen by Jesus to be one of the twelve apostles, given the mission to proclaim the good news, and authority to heal and cast out demons. To be named one of the twelve James must have had faith and commitment.
But even among the apostles he held a special place. When Jesus raised Jairus' daughter when all thought her dead, he only allowed James, John, and Peter to come with him. Even more important when he went up to the mountain to pray, he wanted James, John, and Peter to go with him. And it was there on the mountain they were privileged to witness what no one else had seen -- Jesus transfigured in his glory, speaking to Moses and Elijah, as the voice of God spoke from a cloud.
And with Simon Peter, James and John were the only ones of the apostles that Jesus gave a special name: Sons of Thunder.
To be singled out in these ways, James must have been a close and respected friend of Jesus.
It's no wonder then that James, along with John, felt that he had the right to go to Jesus and ask him to give them whatever they asked. As a mark of his love, Jesus didn't rebuke them but asked them what they wanted. They showed their lack of understanding of his mission when the asked that he let one of them sit on his right and the other on his left when he came into his glory. He replied that they didn't know what they were asking. They didn't see the cross in his future, but an earthly throne. Could they drink of the cup he would drink of? They replied that they could. He assured them they would indeed drink of that cup.
(Matthew has their mother asking for this favor for her sons. Despite the bad reputation their mother got for this, it should be remembered that she too had followed Jesus in his travels, providing for him, and was one of the women who stayed with Jesus as he was crucified when the apostles, including her son James, had fled.)
The other apostles were furious at this request. But Jesus used this opportunity to teach all of them that in order to be great one must be a servant.
James and John did show further lack of understanding of their friend and Lord when he was turned away by Samaritans. They wanted to use their newfound authority as apostles not to heal but to bring fire down on the town. (Perhaps Jesus gave them their Sons of Thunder nickname because of their passion, their own fire, or their temper.) Jesus did reprimand them for their unforgiving, vengeful view of their power.
But despite all these misunderstandings, it was still James, Peter, and John that Jesus chose to join him in prayer at the Garden of Gethsemane for his final prayer before his arrest. It must have hurt Jesus that the three of them fell asleep on this agonizing evening.
James did drink of the cup Jesus drank of, all too shortly after the Resurrection. Acts 12:1 tells us that James was one of the first martyrs of the Church. King Herod Agrippa I killed him with a sword in an early persecution of the Church. There is a story that the man who arrested James became a convert after hearing James speak at his trial and was executed with him.
James is called James the Greater because another younger apostle was named James. He should not be accused with this James, or the James who is a relative of Jesus, or the James who was an elder of the Church in Jerusalem and heard Peter's defense of baptizing Gentiles. James, son of Thunder, was dead by then.
Legends have sprung up that James evangelized Spain before he died but these stories have no basis in historical fact.
James is the patron saint of hatmakers, rheumatoid sufferers, and laborers.
Prayer: Saint James, pray for us that we may be willing to leave everything to follow Jesus as you did. Help us to become special friends of Jesus as you were. Amen.
St. Thomas the Apostle
St. Thomas was a Jew, called to be one of the twelve Apostles. He was a dedicated but impetuous follower of Christ. When Jesus said He was returning to Judea to visit His sick friend Lazarus, Thomas immediately exhorted the other Apostles to accompany Him on the trip which involved certain danger and possible death because of the mounting hostility of the authorities. At the Last Supper, when Christ told His Apostles that He was going to prepare a place for them to which they also might come because they knew both the place and the way, Thomas pleaded that they did not understand and received the beautiful assurance that Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. But St. Thomas is best known for his role in verifying the Resurrection of his Master. Thomas' unwillingness to believe that the other Apostles had seen their risen Lord on the first Easter Sunday merited for him the title of "doubting Thomas." Eight days later, on Christ's second apparition, Thomas was gently rebuked for his scepticism and furnished with the evidence he had demanded - seeing in Christ's hands the point of the nails and putting his fingers in the place of the nails and his hand into His side. At this, St. Thomas became convinced of the truth of the Resurrection and exclaimed: "My Lord and My God," thus making a public Profession of Faith in the Divinity of Jesus. St. Thomas is also mentioned as being present at another Resurrection appearance of Jesus - at Lake Tiberias when a miraculous catch of fish occurred. This is all that we know about St. Thomas from the New Testament. Tradition says that at the dispersal of the Apostles after Pentecost this saint was sent to evangelize the Parthians, Medes, and Persians; he ultimately reached India, carrying the Faith to the Malabar coast, which still boasts a large native population calling themselves "Christians of St. Thomas." He capped his left by shedding his blood for his Master, speared to death at a place called Calamine. His feast day is July 3rd and he is the patron of architects.
Prayer: Almighty and everliving God, who strengthened your apostle Thomas with sure and certain faith in your Son's resurrection: Grant us so perfectly and without doubt to believe in Jesus Christ, our Lord and our God, that our faith may never be found wanting in your sight; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Material gathered from "Catholic Online Saints."