Loading Events

« All Events

  • This event has passed.

Saint James the Greater, Apostle

July 25



Homily of the Day

Feast of Saint James, Apostle

Today is the feast of St. James, a.k.a Santiago, brother of John, one of Zebedee’s sons. He was present at the Transfiguration and most of Jesus’ miracles. He was the first disciple to be martyred, around the year 42AD.

The martyrdom of St. James is significant in light of today’s Gospel. Whereas he was the first of the apostles to be martyred, he was also one of those who dared to ask Jesus for a special place in the kingdom. Recall that James and John, accompanied by their mother, approached Jesus and asked that they be seated on Jesus’ right and left when Jesus reigns in his kingdom. They were asking for places of honor, the best seats in the house, but Jesus could only ask them in response, “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?” James and John answered in the affirmative, and indeed, like Jesus, James died for his faith.

There is something in us that wants to be given importance. We feel good when we are praised or affirmed, and rightly so. But sometimes we start doing things for the sake of being praised. While this is a very human impulse, Jesus turns the table on us and says that “anyone who wants to be great among you must be your servant, and anyone who wants to be first among you must be your slave, just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve….”

Here we have in summary Jesus’ radical idea of servant leadership. To be great is not to be recognized or acknowledged as such, but to be a humble servant. To be first is not to get ahead of all the others, but to be their slave. This goes against the wisdom of the world. Even when we try to be servant leaders, people can still praise us for it, and that’s fine as long as our motivations are clear. Besides, those moments of praise and adulation do not last. In the end, servant leadership is a lifestyle, something we try to
do day in and day out, especially when no one is looking. It is to fulfill our daily duties and commitments with humility and love, even when we are not appreciated for it. At times we may even be persecuted or ridiculed for our commitments. At times we may have to swallow our pride for the sake of the greater good.


Let us be like James. Let us acknowledge our all too human feelings of self-importance, and then learn to be humble servants of the Lord.

Saint James the Apostle’s Story

This James is the brother of John the Evangelist. The two were called by Jesus as they worked with their father in a fishing boat on the Sea of Galilee. Jesus had already called another pair of brothers from a similar occupation: Peter and Andrew. “He walked along a little farther and saw James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They too were in a boat mending their nets. Then he called them. So they left their father Zebedee in the boat along with the hired men and followed him” (Mark 1:19-20).

James was one of the favored three who had the privilege of witnessing the Transfiguration, the raising to life of the daughter of Jairus, and the agony in Gethsemani.

Two incidents in the Gospels describe the temperament of this man and his brother. Saint Matthew tells that their mother came—Mark says it was the brothers themselves—to ask that they have the seats of honor in the kingdom. “Jesus said in reply, ‘You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink?’ They said to him, ‘We can’” (Matthew 20:22). Jesus then told them they would indeed drink the cup and share his baptism of pain and death, but that sitting at his right hand or left was not his to give—it “is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father” (Matthew 20:23b). It remained to be seen how long it would take to realize the implications of their confident “We can!”

The other disciples became indignant at the ambition of James and John. Then Jesus taught them all the lesson of humble service: The purpose of authority is to serve. They are not to impose their will on others, or lord it over them. This is the position of Jesus himself. He was the servant of all; the service imposed on him was the supreme sacrifice of his own life.

On another occasion, James and John gave evidence that the nickname Jesus gave them—“sons of thunder”—was an apt one. The Samaritans would not welcome Jesus because he was on his way to hated Jerusalem. “When the disciples James and John saw this they asked, ‘Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?’ Jesus turned and rebuked them…” (Luke 9:54-55).

James was apparently the first of the apostles to be martyred. “About that time King Herod laid hands upon some members of the church to harm them. He had James, the brother of John, killed by the sword, and when he saw that this was pleasing to the Jews he proceeded to arrest Peter also” (Acts 12:1-3a).

This James, sometimes called James the Greater, is not to be confused with James the Lesser or with the author of the Letter of James and the leader of the Jerusalem community.


The way the Gospels treat the apostles is a good reminder of what holiness is all about. There is very little about their virtues as static possessions, entitling them to heavenly reward. Rather, the great emphasis is on the Kingdom, on God’s giving them the power to proclaim the Good News. As far as their personal lives are concerned, there is much about Jesus’ purifying them of narrowness, pettiness, fickleness.

Saint James the Apostle is the Patron Saint of:




Apostle St. James the Greater

Antonio Veneziano


[Saint] James the Greater by Pope Benedict XVI
James the Greater
The Protoevangelium of James
Saint James the Greater

Apostle St. James with a donor

Jacomart (?)

circa 1450, Prado


Basilica of St. James, Levoča, Slovakia


July 25
Event Category: