Today is the feast of James, the brother of John. He was the first of the Apostles to die for the faith. With his career having been so brief, it seems odd that he was given so much prominence among the Apostles; but he, along with the leading Apostle, Peter, and the Beloved Disciple John, was a privileged companion of Jesus on the mount of the Transfiguration.
I always thought that Jesus’ reason for bringing James up the mountain for the Transfiguration was that James had understood something the other Apostles hadn’t. A week earlier Jesus had told all the Apostles that he was to be put to death, and that they would have to take up their crosses. James must have grasped the gravity of that, and felt sadness, while Our Lord’s sad prediction had just gone over the heads of the other Apostles. Perhaps James was very much in need of a share of the reassurance Jesus received on the mountain by getting a little foretaste of heaven.
James was the first Apostle to die. That might have something to do with the old expression “The good die young.” His was a short hidden life like that of young men and women who turn away from public careers, choosing to wait on God in quiet. The things that are important to us may not be the things that are important to God.