James and his Letter of Contradictions

Who Was the Author of the Letter of James? Lokobos Mikros, more commonly known as James the Less, or James the Younger – an apostle and first bishop of Jerusalem wrote the Letter of James.

He was also one of the brothers of the Lord, a fact that can be discerned by a careful reading of the Gospels, without a need to resort to any outside source.

This James was not the son of Zebedee, but most probably that of Alphaeus (Mt 10:3; Mk 3:18). He is the son of Mary (the mother of the Younger James and a Joses listed in Mark 15:40).  He is, therefore, the same James who is the brother of the Lord listed in Mk 6:3 and Mk 15:40, the son of Mary who John tells us is Mary of Cleopas, the sister of the Blessed Virgin Mary (John 19:25).

St Jerome points out that Hegesippus, who in 165AD wrote five books on the Tradition of the Apostolic Teaching, identifies Cleopas as a brother of St Joseph (Hist. Eccl., III, xi). As such Mary of Cleopas and Mary the mother of Jesus were therefore what we would now refer to as sisters-in-law. Hegesippus confirmed this because he was a close friend of the grandchildren of Jude. Jude was a half-brother of James and also a son of Mary of Cleopas.

Bishop James the Less

In his Letter to the twelve tribes in the dispersion, James describes himself as a ‘doulos’ of God and Lord Jesus, in short, a slave. As a slave of his Lord, he guarded closely his understanding of how one might become a Christian. James, as bishop of Jerusalem, would have overseen the conversion of Jews in Judea who were circumcised into the ancient covenant of Abraham. He would also supervise the first Ecumenical Council in Jerusalem, as its bishop, and eventually also agree that circumcision was not necessary as a prerequisite for a Gentile convert to Christianity. (Acts 15).

The Wisdom of Having Joy in Trials

James begins by exhorting us to consider it joy when we face trials. This seemingly paradoxical teaching challenges our natural inclination. How can I rejoice in my suffering? Yet James teaches us that trials are not meaningless hardships but opportunities for growth in faith and virtue. This requires a wisdom that is not of this world, not founded in mere intellectual knowledge, but rather in a faith that trusts God’s providence -and for that wisdom we need only ask God.

Wealth vs. Poverty

James also addresses the paradox of wealth and poverty. The rich are reminded that wealth is fleeting. (cf. Ecc 2:18-21). The poor should view their circumstance from an eternal perspective and rely on Jesus’ promise to be heirs of the kingdom of heaven. (Mt 5:3).

Neither rich nor poor can have security based on worldly possessions. A detachment from them requires humility and trust in God’s abundant spiritual provision. Therefore, especially in the face of life’s brevity, we are called to prioritize the pursuit of holiness over our culture of self-indulgence and instant gratification.

Summing it All

The Letter of James offers important insights into the Christian life. We are called to embrace trials with joy, to seek God’s wisdom in faith, and view wealth and poverty through an eternal lens. As such, let us live with humility and persevere in a holy journey towards the kingdom of Heaven. We will thereby find strength and trust in God’s grace to sustain us through every trial and tribulation.

[Readings: Jas 1:1-11; Mk 8:11-13]

Jerry DeMelo Jr.

Mr Jerry DeMelo, Jr OP is a life-long Catholic and life professed Lay Dominican. A graduate of the Naval Academy, he served in the US Submarine Service. He is presently a Judicial Officer in California. Jerry enjoys Catholic Pilgrimages, teaches a weekly Bible study as well as the Diaconate formation program for the Diocese of Fresno. Mr DeMelo is on the Board of Directors of Gratia Vobis Ministries.

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