This week we have several interesting feast days of Saints. On Monday we celebrate St. James the Apostle. He was the son of Zebedee, and had a brother, John, who was also an Apostle. To make things a bit more confusing, there was another James who was also an Apostle. To distinguish the two, the St. James the Apostle whose feast is this week is referred to as “the Greater,” and the other unfortunate Apostle is referred to as “the Lesser.” I think this distinction was based on their ages."
St. James the Apostle should not be confused with the St. James who was the “brother of the Lord” and the leader of the first Christian community in Jerusalem. Nor should our St. James be confused with the St. James who wrote the Epistle of St. James. Apparently James was a very popular name in First Century Palestine. St. James, as I said, was the son of Zebedee. We don’t know much about Zebedee other than he was a fisherman, and James and John abandoned him when called by Jesus (Mt 4:21-22). We know a little bit more about their Mother. It seems she was an ambitious woman and was willing to scheme to get preferment for her sons. In St. Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 20, we hear how their mother approached Jesus and asked for the best places in the Kingdom of God. Her ploy did not succeed and only served to irritate the other Apostles. James was one of the favored three to witness the Transfiguration, though. It seems that James and his brother were a bit hot-headed. They were nick-named “sons of thunder,” and on one occasion earned a rebuke from Jesus when they wanted Him to call down fire on a Samaritan town that did not welcome Jesus (Luke 9: 54-5). Perhaps it was this hot-headed and reckless nature that caused St. James to be the first of all the Apostles to be martyred.
On Tuesday we have the Memorial of Sts. Joachim and Anne, the parents of Mary and grandparents of Jesus. The names of these Saints derive from a popular work of the second century, and who knows if they preserve a historical memory or not. But Jesus obviously did have grandparents, because He was like us in all things but sin. Did they babysit Jesus when He was an infant? Did they tend to spoil Him as many grandparents do with their grandchildren? We really don’t know and can only speculate. This would be a good day to call your grandparents if they are still alive and wish them well, and if they are deceased, then to say a special prayer for them. Grandparents are important.
On Friday we celebrate St. Martha. She must have been a fabulous hostess, because Jesus seemed to like to go there (Luke 10:38-42, John 11:1-53, and John 12:1-9). We all know that Mary chose the better part, but Martha is easier to identify with, and she was also a woman of great faith (John 11: 21 – 27). She is an appealing person (at least to me) because of her forthright and direct nature.
So this week we have a good opportunity to reflect on the many varied ways that we can become saints: as apostolic workers, as faithful and loving parents and grandparents, and in different roles of service.