Walking in Peace with St. James: Overview and Chapter 1

St. James

Opening Prayer…

St. James!
We come to you in eager pilgrimage.

We come as part of a great throng of pilgrims
who through the centuries have come to this place,
where you are pilgrim and host, apostle and patron.
We come to you today
because we are on a common journey.
Place yourself, patron of pilgrims,
at the head of our pilgrimage.
Teach us, apostle and friend of the Lord,
the WAY which leads to him.
Open us, preacher of the Gospel,
to the TRUTH you learned from your Master’s lips.
Give us, witness of the faith,
the strength always to love the LIFE Christ gives.
We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

History of the Apostle St. James

James was the brother of John and the son of Zebedee.  His life changed when Jesus came along and asked him to follow him; he dropped his nets and left with his brother.  He was chosen by Jesus to be one of the twelve apostles, given the mission to proclaim the good news, and authority to heal and cast out demons. To be named one of the twelve James must have had faith and commitment.  He saw Jesus preach in the synagogue, heal Simon’s mother-in-law, raise Jairus’ daughter, be transfigured and pray in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Acts 12:1 tells us that James was one of the first martyrs of the Church. King Herod Agrippa I killed him with a sword in an early persecution of the Church. There is a story that the man who arrested James became a convert after hearing James speak at his trial and was executed with him.  James is called James the Greater because another younger apostle was named James. He should not be accused with this James, or the James who is a relative of Jesus, or the James who was an elder of the Church in Jerusalem and heard Peter’s defense of baptizing Gentiles. James, son of Thunder, was dead by then.  Legends have sprung up that James evangelized Spain before he died but these stories have no basis in historical fact.

St. James & Spain

There are legends that explain how the relics of St. James ended up in Compostela, Spain.  These legends were the basis for the pilgrimage route that began to be established in the 9th century, and the shrine dedicated to James at Santiago de Compostela, in Galicia in Spain, became the most famous pilgrimage site in the Christian world. The Way of St. James is a tree of routes that cross Western Europe and arrive at Santiago through Northern Spain. Eventually James became the patron saint of Spain, but also of hat makers, rheumatoid sufferers and laborers.  (www.catholic.org)

Letter of St. James

Though it is unmistakably Christian, this book has a very Jewish feel to it.  Jesus is mentioned by name only twice (1:1, 2:1), and there are no references to the saving effects of his death and resurrection or to the gift and work of God’s Holy Spirit.  Instead, there are a lot of do’s and don’ts, like a guidebook down the path of life.

There is still debate among theologians who wrote this epistle.  It is most widely attributed to Jesus’ “brother” James, who became the leader of the church in Jerusalem (James the Just, not the apostle).  The letter starts as being addressed to the twelve tribes in the dispersion, which could mean descendants of Abraham (12 tribes) or Jews who live outside of Palestine (dispersed).  Metaphorically, it could be Christians who are the new Israel (as a select group) or all Christians dispersed on the earth.  The ambiguity speaks to what the writer was probably feeling at the time, and his audience.  Christianity was so new (Powell, Intro. the New Testament, p. 445-450)..  We don’t even know when it was written, whether 60s or perhaps later in the 80s & 90s.  Despite the reflection of Jewish Christian traditions, the writing itself suggests a Greek-speaking Jewish community because of its elegance (Perkins, Reading the New Testament, p. 297).

So there is mystery with James the Apostle, James the Just and this letter.  We will sit with this mystery and see how it helps us in our Lenten journey.

Chapter 1

Most letters start in thanksgiving…not James!  He tells us to consider our trials and difficulties with JOY!  Difficulties show our true worth.  They make us stronger and help us see perspective.  How does this show in your life?  He encourages us to seek God with a full heart with our troubles.  Doubt makes us unstable, a “man of two minds”.  Have you ever been torn in your faith?  What happens when we are of two minds?

James also tells us that we are not only to talk the talk but walk the walk.  He draws a picture that when we don’t do as we say, it is like looking at ourselves in the mirror, having forgotten what we looked like.  What does this mean to you?

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