St James, the Greater
While walking by the lake of Gennesareth in Galilee, Jesus saw James and his brother John in a boat with their father, Zebedee, a prosperous fisherman. Jesus called to the brothers, and they immediately abandoned their nets and father to join him. Both men instantly dedicated their lives to Christ and became his disciples.
Tradition says that after Jesus' Resurrection, James the Greater (so called because a younger James later joined the Apostles) traveled to Spain to spread Christ's teachings. He returned to Jerusalem just as Herod Agrippa began to persecute the Christians about the middle of the first century. Herod ordered James' arrest and then sentenced him to death by the sword. But even in the face of death, James never lost his faith or his courage.
Indeed, the man who arrested James was so impressed by James' commitment to Jesus that he became a Christian and begged for God's forgiveness. Like James, he was also killed for turning to Christ.
James' violent execution made him the first Apostle to suffer martyrdom. After his death, his followers supposedly placed his body in a boat and cast it to sea.
Centuries later, during the Middle Ages, a vision led a hermit named Pelayo to James' burial site, located at a place along Spain's Atlantic coast called Compostela. Soon after, "Santiago de Compostela!" (the word iago is Spanish for James) became a war cry for Christians battling the Moors. Thousands flocked to the site, attracting as many pilgrims as Rome and Jerusalem did during the same period.
O gracious God,
we remember before you today
your servant and apostle James,
first among the Twelve to suffer martyrdom
for the Name of Jesus Christ,
and we pray that you will pour upon
the leaders of your Church
that spirit of self-denying service
by which alone
they may have true authority
among your people;
through the same Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you
and the Holy Spirit, one God,
now and for ever.
From Ordinary People, Extraordinary Lives
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