We celebrate James in mid-summer, so I do feel like a haze has to lift for me to get started. Maybe, it was a hazy, early summer morning when Jesus called his first disciples and found James and his brother John with their father, Zebedee, fixing their fishing nets. (Mark 1:18)
Here comes the new guy. Many had probably heard something about him, but they were not expecting, after a long evening of fishing, to be called right then. But yes, he calls them to just leave their nets and follow him. And they did!
Did you ever wonder what Zebedee made of that? And how is he supposed to tell Mrs. Z that the boys took off just like that, leaving him holding the nets? We have an idea that they were ambitious (Mark 10:35), which may have been due to some of their mother’s influence. And perhaps she thought that this could be their big moment! What we know today is that somehow all these very human responses are going to be resolved. But we have a way to go.
As Jesus is naming his close apostles, he nicknames James and John: Boanerges, the Sons of Thunder! (Mark 3:17) Hot Heads! And they likely lived up to this nickname. On one occasion, they wanted to call down God’s fire from heaven to destroy the Samaritans for their lack of hospitality. (Luke 9:54) At that, Jesus tells them to cool it and continue on the journey. So, Jesus saw their true selves in those early days—strengths and weaknesses that remained with them during their spiritual transformation.
As an aside, think of your first nights as a novice. What nickname might Jesus have given to you? I spent some time reflecting on this. And yes, as I reviewed my years, I came up with a name that rings true: The Performer. I have tripped over it as part of my spiritual maturing and transforming, but as you know, it is part of who I am—no doubt. Teachers are performers, as are caregivers and the drama of our faith transforms our lives. What does Jesus see and love in us? —our true selves.
Back to James, his close friendship with Jesus is often apparent. Peter, James, and John are part of his innermost circle: Peter will be Christ’s Rock to build His Church; John will become the beloved, loved by Jesus beyond words; and James. Well, James will be the first Apostle to be martyred. His fiery thunder likely did not fade with his age.
In 44CE, Herod Agrippa intended to arrest and persecute the annoying Christians, but he instead decided to behead James. The courage that James demonstrated even in his death inspired others to follow Jesus. Even today, hundreds of thousands of pilgrims each year walk the Way of Saint James in a pilgrimage called the Camino, which many say brings them a renewed self-discovery and transformation.
The overall message I want to leave today is about transformation. The ongoing, radical change that occurs because of one’s walking close to Jesus.
Transformation is a contemporary term, but by no means is it new. We discuss transformation today as we are today. We are not those young novices and some of us may feel we are a little late in the game for transformation, but who sets the rules? Jesus continues to call us every day and we continue to respond. What a wonderful gift we are given, to hear that Voice and know it is the Lord. Our number of years doesn’t seem to matter to Jesus. “Come now,” he says, “Come as you are, and I will see that you have all that you need.”
Leave it all…nets, boats, and aches and pains and just follow. Just bring your hopes and dreams for the next part of the Camino of life.
On this feast day, we remember James. He is probably telling us “Yes, you will stumble, and you will continue to act out of that special something Jesus named in you. It is part of who you are and why you are so loved by Jesus.
As Sister James reminded us over and over: Life is a Mystery.
God is leading and calling…
– Sister Bridget Kiniry, OP
A resident of Dominican Convent, Sister Bridget is a preacher and
coordinator of the Days for Girls program there.