Sunday, July 26, 2009


July 25 is the Feast of St. James, Apostle—“the Greater”, to distinguish him from “James the son of Alpheus” (Mt 10:3; Mk 3:18; Lk 6:15) also referred to as “James the Less” (Mk 15:40). St. James the Greater is the brother of John, “he whom Jesus loved” (Jn 13:23; 19:26; 20:2; and 21:7); and these two sons of Zebedee were named Boanerges, "sons of thunder", by our Lord (Mk 3:17) perhaps because of a certain impetuousness of character, as when they spoke of calling down fire from heaven to consume a Samaritan town that would not welcome our Lord:

“Now it came to pass, when the days had come for him to be taken up, that he steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem, and sent messengers before him. And they went and entered a Samaritan town to make ready for him, and they did not receive him, because his face was set for Jerusalem. But when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, ‘Lord, wilt thou that we bid fire come down from heaven and consume them? But he turned and rebuked them, saying, ‘You do not know of what manner of spirit you are; for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.’ And they went to another village.” (Lk 9:51-56)

On another occasion, out of zeal, it was John who spoke about forbidding one who was not of their company from casting out devils in the name of the Lord:

“John said to him, ‘Master, we saw a man who was not one of our followers casting out devils in thy name, and we forbade him.’ But Jesus said, ‘Do not forbid him…For he who is not against you is for you.” (Mk 9:37-40; Lk 9:49-50)

The “mother of the sons of Zebedee”—Salome—was present at the Crucifixion of our Lord. She is mentioned along with Mary Magdalene and “Mary the mother of James the Less and of Joseph” (Mk 15:40). This last Mary, “the mother of James and Joseph” (Mt 27:56), is identifiable with “Mary of Cleophas”, Cleophas being the other name of Alpheus, the father of James the Less (cf. Mt 10:3; Mk 3:18; Lk 6:15). Salome, the mother of James and John, was probably a sister or close relative of the Blessed Virgin Mary: “Now there were standing by the cross of Jesus his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene” (Jn 19:25). This closeness to our Lady would partly explain why Salome herself had the “temerity” to ask our Lord for the “right hand” and “left hand” seats for her sons in the kingdom:

“Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to him with her sons; and worshipping, she made a request of him. He said to her, ‘What dost thou want?’ She said to him, ‘Command that these my two sons may sit, one at thy right hand and one at thy left hand, in thy kingdom.’ But Jesus answered and said, ‘You do not know what you are asking for. Can you drink of the cup which I am about to drink?’ They said to him, ‘We can.’ He said to them, ‘Of my cup you shall indeed drink; but as for sitting at my right hand and at my left, that is not mine to give you, but it belongs to those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.’” (Mt 20:20-23)

The ambitious zeal of the Boanerges and their mother is an invitation for us to foster the desire for holiness, to reach our end. Nor is that an impossible dream. Our human freedom is precisely the capacity to direct ourselves—intelligently and voluntarily—towards union with God. We will only reach heaven if we want to, with an operative desire. Possumus, “we can”, in spite of our wretchedness, with “God and daring”, Diós y audacia:

“Will-power. Energy. Example. What has to be done is done…without wavering….Otherwise, Cisneros would not have been Cisneros; nor Teresa of Ahumada, St. Teresa; nor Iñigo of Loyola, St. Ignatius. God and daring! ‘Regnare Christum volumus!’—‘We want Christ to reign!’” (The Way, No. 11)

St. Josemaria further writes:

“Allow your soul to be consumed by desires—desires for loving, for forgetting yourself, for sanctity, for Heaven. Do not stop to wonder whether the time will come to see them accomplished, as some pseudo-adviser might suggest. Make them more fervent everyday, for the Holy Spirit says that he is pleased with men of desires. Let your desires be operative and put them into practice in your daily tasks.” (Furrow, No. 628)

The hero of the Book of Daniel was a “man of desires”, vir desideriorum (Dn 10:11, 19; although some translations render this as “beloved”).

James and John, perhaps because of their predisposition, together with Peter (because of his primacy), were the three whom our Lord brought to witness his Transfiguration (Mt 17:1; Mk 9:2: Lk 9:28) and agony (in the Garden [Mt 26:37; Mk 14:33]). St. James was beheaded on orders of Herod Agrippa, and was the first apostle to have the honor of being martyred.