James the Greater
Feast Day: July 25
James; his brother John, the Evangelist; and Peter were special favorites of the Lord. They had the privilege of witnessing the Transfiguration, when Jesus’ robe and face shined as bright as the sun and the voice of God spoke from the heavens, announcing that Jesus was his only Son. The three apostles were terrified and fell to the ground.
Later, when they were coming down from the mountain where this had taken place, Jesus told them that they could not tell anyone what they had seen until after he had died and been risen from the dead.
James was called “the Greater” because he was either older or taller than the other apostle named James. One day, James and his brother John made the other apostles angry. The two of them told the Lord that they thought they deserved a special place in his kingdom. They bragged that they would be able to sacrifice their lives, as Jesus was going to sacrifice his. Jesus took the brothers aside. He told them that they did not understand what true service to others meant. He said that anyone who wanted to be truly great had to be the servant of others. Jesus was trying to teach them what he expected of them.
Jesus called the two brothers “sons of thunder” because they sometimes lost their tempers. One time the people of a village turned them away. James and John were upset that the villagers would not welcome Jesus. They asked the Lord if he wanted them to call down fire to destroy the village. Jesus had to correct them and remind them that God wants us to act with love.
But James and John did learn from everything Jesus taught. They became great examples of faith for all of Jesus’ followers. After Pentecost, James stayed in Jerusalem to preach about Jesus even though it was dangerous to be known as a Christian. He was soon arrested and put to death around 44 A.D.
James was the first apostle to become a martyr for his faith in Christ. Tradition says that his body was taken to Compostela, in Spain, which became a famous place of pilgrimage—”The Way of St. James”—from the Middle Ages onward. Some stories say he traveled to Spain to preach there before his death, but there is no proof that this happened.