Today in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Benedict XVI discussed the Apostle, "James the Greater," during his weekly general audience. The Holy Father told the crowd of 25,000 people that James possessed an “impetuous zeal” and can teach us, “willingness to bear witness to Him with courage.”
The Holy Father has been working his way though the apostles during his weekly catechesis in the last few weeks - first Peter, then Andrew, now James.
James the Greater, said the Pope, "was one of the three disciples privileged to be present at the most significant moments in the life of Jesus," such as the Lord's Transfiguration on Mount Tabor and His agony in the Garden of Gethsemane.
Pope Benedict pointed out that James, "enjoyed a position of great authority within the early Church of Jerusalem over which, together with Peter, he had pastoral responsibility."
"Son of thunder," the name that Jesus gave to James, perhaps refers "to his impetuous zeal," said the Holy Father, a characteristic the Apostle showed, among other occasions, when he wished to bid fire come down from heaven to consume a village of the Samaritans that had refused to receive the Lord. His reaction, Pope Benedict explained, "clearly showed his love for Jesus, but probably also expressed the traditional enmity between Jews and Samaritans.”
“But,” the Holy Father continued, “Jesus had no love for violence," and reproved His disciple.
Discussing further two of the most important experiences in James' life - the Transfiguration and agony of Jesus, the Pope said, "In one case, James, with the other two Apostles, experienced glory and ecstasy, in the other, he found himself facing suffering and humiliation. The second experience was for him the occasion to correct his interpretation ... of the first. ... The Messiah , awaited by the Jewish people as a victor was, in fact, not only surrounded by honor and glory, but also by torment and weakness.
"James was thus able to mature his faith gradually," Benedict XVI added, "discovering little by little the true messianic identity of the Master."
After the Pentecost, tradition relates his evangelization of Spain, and the transfer of his body to Santiago de Compostela, which since then has been a goal of pilgrimage.
"From James we can, then, learn many things," the Pope emphasized: "readiness to welcome the Lord's call even when He asks us to leave the 'ship' of our human certainties; enthusiasm to follow Him along the roads He indicates, over and beyond our illusory presumption; willingness to bear witness to Him with courage, even, if necessary, unto the supreme sacrifice of life."
James "who wished to sit with his brother alongside the Master in His Kingdom, was the first of the Apostles to share in His martyrdom" when, in the middle of the first century, King Herod Agrippa 'laid violent hands upon some who belonged to the Church,' killing 'James the brother of John with the sword'."