Journeying in Christ

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 25 July 2020

Santiago de Compostela in Spain is one of the world’s oldest and most popular pilgrim sites where the body of the Apostle St. James the Greater whose feast we are celebrating today is believed to be buried in its beautiful cathedral.

I have not been there yet and despite COVID-19’s disruption of air travel expected to last until 2022, my hope remains that someday in God’s time I may finally do the “el camino de Santiago de Compostela” (the way of Saint James of Compostela), too.

But, with or without the el camino de Santiago de Compostela, this great Apostle from the very beginning had always been in a journey in himself into the kingdom of God – Jesus Christ – by showing us the way of transformation into a true disciple of the Lord.

He is called the Greater not because he is holier than the other St. James called “the Lesser”, son of Alpheus, but to simply indicate the different importance they received in the writings of the New Testament. In the gospel of Mark, he comes in second in the list after Peter while in the gospels of Matthew and Luke, he is ranked third after the brothers Peter and Andrew; he again comes in third in the Acts of the Apostles after St. Peter and his brother St. John.

It is from this book where we also learn St. James the Greater as the first bishop of the original Christian community in Jerusalem that during the persecution by King Herod Agrippa in 40 AD, he also became the first Apostle to be martyred (Acts 12:1-2).

His martyr’s death thus fulfilled Christ’s words to him that he would indeed “drink from his chalice” to be with him in his Kingdom, a journey that essentially began within this great apostle after leaving everything behind to follow Jesus.

The journey within self to Jesus Christ

St. James the Greater and his brother St. John the Evangelist and believed to be the same beloved disciple came from a middle class family with both parents still alive and most likely, very supportive of them as attested by some little anecdotes in the gospel accounts.

Money was never an issue for them because their father Zebedee could hire workers to work in their fishing business. He must have sighed with a great relief when James and John immediately left him after being called by Jesus to be his disciples.

Marker along the “el camino de Santiago de Compostela”.

Finally, his sons have found some directions in life following Jesus who was getting known then in Galilee as a powerful and credible Teacher unlike the Pharisees and scribes.

Jesus nicknamed James and John as Boanerges for “Sons of thunder” (Mk.3:17) due to their temperament like when they proposed that they send fire to burn a Samaritan town that have refused them passage during their journey to Jerusalem (Lk.9:54).

They have seen and experienced the tremendous powers of Jesus not only in preaching but most especially in calming the storms, walking on sea, exorcising evil spirits, healing all kinds of sickness, and even raising to life some who have died.

Most of all, St. James the Greater was privileged to witness along with his brother and St. Peter the Transfiguration of Jesus Christ on Mount Tabor, seeing all the glory of Christ conversing with Moses and Elijah. It was after this major event that their most controversial episode would occur when their mother came to ask Jesus that James and John be seated “one at your right and the other at your left, in your Kingdom” (Mt.20:21).

The other ten Apostles “grew indignant” of the brothers James and John for being so ambitious but Jesus summoned them and explained things which all of them would heed except for one:

“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 also 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 is life as a ransom for many.”

Matthew 20:25-28

This took place shortly before Palm Sunday when Jesus entered Jerusalem.

A few days later on the evening of Holy Thursday, Jesus again brought St. James the Greater with his brother St. John and St. Peter to accompany him pray at Gethsemane where Judas Iscariot eventually betrayed him to his enemies.

A pilgrim hugging from the back the statue of Santiago de Compostela after completing his el camino.

Here we find St. James the Greater being present to two major stops in Jesus Christ’s journey to the Calvary: first, on Mount Tabor for his Transfiguration and second, at Gethsemane for his agony in the garden. In both events in the life of our Lord, St. James the Greater was a privileged witness, first of his coming glory and then of his passion and death.

It would only be after Easter and the Pentecost when all these major stops in his personal journey with Christ when everything would become clear to him and the other Apostles.

All along their journey from the shores of Galilee to Jerusalem, St. James the Greater remained by the side of Jesus Christ, probably unaware of another journey with the Lord taking place right inside his heart to truly be a part of his Kingdom by sharing in his Passion, Death, and Resurrection.

For his faithful adherence to Jesus from Galilee to Jerusalem, St. James the Greater again had the rare privilege like at Mount Tabor and Gethsemane in being the first to die as a martyr proclaiming the Gospel of Christ which is the meaning of the expression of “drinking from the chalice” of the Lord.

Sometimes in life, we just have to make “sakay” as my generation used to say, “sakay lang ng sakay” or “ride on, man, ride on” without really knowing where our trip would lead us. St. James just made “sakay” without knowing Jesus was already fulfilling his wish of “drinking from his chalice”.

Photo by Fr. Gener Garcia, sculpture of a pilgrim’s feet at Santiago de Compostela museum, 2019.

St. James the Greater was truly great not because of the distances in miles or kilometers he had covered with Jesus from Galilee to Jerusalem and all the way to Compostela in Spain; we honor him today because of that great journey he had undertaken within him, in his heart to remain always at the side of Christ even if had to smoothen his many rough edges as a person, and cleanse his heart as a sinner like us.

That is the most important journey we are all taking in this life, the journey within us.

The longest journey in life is the distance between the heart and the mind.

Former UN Sec.Gen Dag Hammarskjold in “Markings”

My friend Fr. Gener Garcia last year went to Santiago de Compostela to follow the el camino with our kababayan Bishop Bart Santos of Iba, Zambales and Fr. Jaypee Avila assigned as a chaplain for OFW’s in Milan, Italy.

He is so generous to share with us his photos of their pilgrimage as well as his experiences and realizations in life. According to him, on the four sides of the sculpture of the pilgrim’s feet in front of the museum of Santiago de Compostela is the following quotation:

Marker along the el camino de Santiago de Compostela.

Camino recto, camino erguido, camino buscando un sentido. Camino porque tengo un objetivo, y no parare hasta alcanzar mi destino.

(I walk straight, I walk upright, I walk looking for meaning. I walk with a purpose and I won’t stop until I meet my destiny.)

The pilgrim’s journey is the same one you and I are on. Know your goals and understand your challenges. Face them head-on, tackle them with intention, and never give up.

Do you know what your purpose in life is? What would you say if someone ask you what your destiny was?

Santiago de Compostela Museum of Pilgrims

Have a blessed Saturday everyone!

*All photos by Fr. Gener Garcia, 2019.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s