06/21/2006, 00.00
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Pope: follow Jesus like James, with readiness, enthusiasm and availability

The life of James "the greater", the third apostle depicted by Benedict XVI, "symbolizes the entire pilgrimage of the Christian life, between the persecutions of the world and the consolations of God."

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – "Readiness" to welcome the call of God, "enthusiasm" to follow him, leaving behind our human securities, "availability" to testify to him to the point of extreme sacrifice: these are features of the life of St James, the apostle "James the greater", which Benedict XVI offered today for meditation to 25,000 people gathered in St Peter's Square for the general audience.

The traditional weekly Wednesday meeting took place on a day which the Pope himself described as "very hot", so much so, he was prompted, he said, to shorten the text of his prepared address.

In today's teaching Benedict XVI continued his depiction of the figures of the 12 apostles, illustrating, after Peter and Andrew, the figure of James, "the greater". In the ranks of the apostles, said the Pope, "he occupies second place, right after Peter, as in Mark (3:17) or third place after Peter and Andrew in Matthew's Gospel (10:2) and in Luke (6:14), while in the Acts, he comes after Peter and John (1:13). These variations are an indication of a church tradition that is alive and which, in some way or another, consistently points to the importance of James. At the time of the call to follow Jesus, James is in third place, after Peter and Andrew (cfr Mt 4:18-21; Mk 1:16-19)".

Benedict XVI underlined two "powerful moments" in the life of the apostle. He said: "These are particularly significant because they appear to contrast each other: I refer to the transfiguration of Jesus on Mount Tabor and the agony in the Garden of Olives. In both cases, James is preordained, as Peter and John are, to bear witness to the event: this is surely a sign of special predilection by Jesus. They are two situations very different one from the other. In one case, James, with the other two apostles, experiences glory and ecstasy and in the other, he is faced with suffering and humiliation. Certainly the second experience was for him an opportunity to correct his probably mistaken interpretation of the first: he had to discern that the Messiah, expected by the Jewish people as a one who was triumphant, was in reality not only surrounded by honour and by glory but also by sorrow and weakness. Thus James could gradually mature his own faith, discerning little by little the true Messianic identity of the Teacher."

"This maturation," continued the Pope, "reached fulfillment through the Holy Spirit in Pentecost, so much so that James, when the time came for his supreme witness, did not pull back. At the start of the 40s of the first century, King Herod Agrippa, nephew of Herod the Great, as Luke informs us, 'laid violent hands upon some who belonged to the church. He had James, the brother of John, killed with the sword' (Acts 12:1-2)."

"The concise nature of the news, deprived of all narrative detail, reveals, on the one hand, how normal it was for Christians to testify to the Lord with their very life, and on the other, the prominent position occupied by James in the Church of Jerusalem, not least because of the role he played during the earthly presence of Jesus. A later tradition, dating back at least to Isidore of Seville, tells of his trip to Spain to evangelize that important region of the Roman Empire. According to another tradition, it was his body that was transported to Spain, to the city of Santiago de Compostela. As we all know, that place became the object of great veneration and is still the destination of numerous pilgrimages, not only from Europe but from the whole world."

"So we can learn many things from St James: readiness to welcome the call of the Lord even when he asks us to leave the 'boat' of our human securities, enthusiasm to follow him along the paths He indicates beyond our illusory presumptions, availability to testify to him with courage, and if necessary, to the point of the supreme sacrifice of one's life. Thus James the greater comes before us as an eloquent example of generous adhesion to Christ. He, who wanted to sit with his brother besides the Teacher in his Kingdom, would be the first of the apostles to share his martyrdom." The Pope added spontaneously: "Thus, James comes before us as an eloquent example of generous adhesion to Christ, and the journey – not only exteriorly but above all interiorly – from the mount of the Transfiguration to the agony, symbolizes the entire pilgrimage of the Christian life, between the persecutions of the world, and the consolations of God, as the Second Vatican Council said. Following Jesus as St James did, we know we will do well even in difficult times; that we are going down the right road."

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