Feast of Saint James, apostle
(II Corinthians 4:7-15; Matthew 20:20-28)
People were gathering in a bar in New York City to have a drink after work seven months after nine-eleven. A young marine in full dress was standing at the bar with two older men, possibly his dad and uncle. At one table sat a group of outdoor workmen; at another a group of office women. Into the room walked two men wearing NYFD tee shirts. Perhaps because they were wearing boots as well, no one seemed to doubt that they were really firemen. Everything stopped as all the customers rose to their feet. The marine turned around and gave the fireman a full salute. Everyone else followed suit. The bartender poured the firemen drinks, and all went back to what it had been. Today the Church honors St. James with the same instinct that captured the attention of that crowd in the bar after nine-eleven.
St. James was the first of the apostles on record to have been martyred for the sake of Christ. The Acts of the Apostles mentions that he was executed by order of King Herod. In time all of the others except St. John are believed to have similarly given their lives as a witness to Christ. For this reason they are venerated as James today with a proper feast day.
After so many centuries we have lost some of the fervor in honoring the apostle-martyrs. But we should never neglect to observe their feast days but less forget their stories. In the first reading Paul, also an apostle-martyr, explains why. They suffered travails as well as death so that we might know Jesus Christ who gives us eternal life.