In my close circle of friends, I count at least half a dozen men named ‘James.’ Near as I can tell, not a single one claims the son of Alphaeus as his patron saint. And who can blame them? Who’d want to named after the guy colloquially known as ‘James the Lesser’?
It’s a rather interesting dilemma, though, isn’t it?
Because the other James – ‘James the Greater’…son of Zebedee – gets something of a dressing-down when he and his brother John (a.k.a. the sons of Thunder) try to snatch front-row seats within the ranks of the Twelve Apostles. As we hear in today’s Gospel, on the feast of St. James-bar-Zebedee:
Jesus summoned them and said,
“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them,
and the great ones make their authority over them felt.
But it shall not be so among you.
Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant;
whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave.
Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served
but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Granted, most commentators will assure you that the nicknames ‘Greater’ and ‘Lesser’ had nothing to do with the two Apostles’ relative status or accomplishments. And both eventually demonstrated some world-class chops in carrying out their apostolic vocations (the ‘Greater’ becoming the first of the Twelve to suffer martyrdom; the ‘Lesser,’ authoring a New Testament Letter and serving as Jerusalem’s first bishop.)
Still, I have to wonder how often image-consciousness creeps into the conversation… when we find ourselves gravitating toward one Santiago over the other.
As both of these blessed men discovered: It’s a hard choice that the Master puts before us – choosing to be less rather than more.
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy One.