Feast of Saint James, apostle
(II Corinthians 4:7-15; Matthew 20:20-28)
Remember the saying that chocolate or some other delicacy was “good enough to die for.” In time people, following baser instincts modified the wording. The chocolate was no longer “good enough to die for” but “good enough to kill for.” Perhaps that phrase has now gone out of vogue. In any case a similar evolution may be seen in the story of today’s patron, St. James.
The Acts of Apostles states that King Herod “had James, the brother of John, killed by the sword.” In no way does Acts present James as a soldier. As an original disciple of Jesus, he was probably a pacifist. In today’s first reading St. Paul describes the kind of life James led. The apostle writes of himself as well as the twelve that Jesus sent out to preach: “We are…always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus…” In time, however, when Christians in Spain were being threatened by Muslims, St. James turned into a military hero. He was thought to have killed many Muslims and has become known as “Santiago Matamoros.” This means St. James, the Moor (Muslim)-killer.
We must take care that our faith in Christ does not follow the human fascination with violence. There is a Christian tradition of just war, but it never exalts in killing. Jesus certainly was not a warrior. He even exhorted his disciples to “turn the other cheek” when unjustly struck. We honor St. James today not for killing but for witnessing to Christ’s peace.