It was surely no coincidence that James and his brother John were sons of a fisherman and made their living off the Sea of Galilee. To live near and fish on a lake of that magnitude requires strength, knowledge, understanding, and at certain times of the year, bravery. It also takes fortitude, attention to detail, and temperance. Without all those qualities one could end up seriously hurt or worse yet, tangled in nets sinking to the bottom of the lake. James wasn’t alone in his calling – three others with whom he shared communal life were likewise called by Jesus to follow Him. Eventually they were even called upon to proclaim all they saw to the world. (Simon) Peter and Andrew who were coworkers, and his brother John were also called to follow Jesus around the same time as James. Jesus gathered together those He could trust who would witness the miracle of God’s love.
James was only one of three people Jesus invited to pray with Him in the Garden of Gethsemane. It was there James witnessed the transfiguration and was himself transformed in mind and spirit.
Saint James the apostle is sometimes referred to as the Greater to distinguish him from James the son of Joseph (who is sometimes called James the Lesser). Called to serve, he became a trusted friend and was instructed to serve and love those who followed our Lord. But there is more to James than his being a saint or follower of Jesus – he was first and foremost a hard worker, a friend, and a companion.
James was the first of the 12 apostles to be martyred for the newly forming community of believers. He was killed on the order of King Herod Agrippa I of Judea, about 44 A.D. (Acts 12:1-2) “1- It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. 2 – He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword”.
Though we do not know much about the life of James the Greater, we know he was a man trusted by our Lord and he died for the early church. His strength and wisdom continue to guide and direct us all.