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St James Intercisus
Martyr (entered heaven in 421)
Great news that you have received yet another prestigious leadership award! Congratulations. I do wonder how you keep them all straight. And I do wonder whether they will succeed in keeping you on the straight and narrow path of friendship with Christ. Worldly success, you know, brings with it a host of temptations. If you don’t “watch and pray” as the Gospels tell us to (Matthew 26:41), you may find yourself seduced by the “sound and fury” of passing honors and sparkling awards. Not that you should avoid receiving honors – our Lord also pointed out that “much will be required of the person entrusted with much” (Luke 12:48), and the talents you have been given are certainly “much,” so you should let them shine. Just take care that you don’t start enjoying the limelight more than the light of God’s love. Perhaps the example of today’s saint can provide you with some guidance.
James was in high favor with King Yezdigerd I of Persia, who around the year 420 launched the second great persecution of Christians in Persia (modern day Iran). James was a Christian, but he lacked the courage to renounce his master’s friendship – life in the court was so scintillating, and he had received so many honors and was held is such high esteem… So he let go of his friendship with Christ instead. His mother and his wife were horrified and heartbroken, and when the King died they wrote him a letter filled with loving, passionate rebukes and warnings. This letter was a vehicle of God’s grace, and as he read it over and over again amid the sumptuous comfort of his quarters in the palace, his heart turned back to his Lord. He stopped appearing at court from then on, renounced the honors that he had received, and publicly repented for his earlier betrayal.
The new king (Bahram) summoned him for an explanation, and when James declared himself a Christian, Bahram humiliated him and reproached him for his ignoble ingratitude towards all the honors Yezdigerd had lavished upon him. James answered, “And where is he now? What has become of him?” After a lengthy discussion wherein James defended the truth of the Christian faith, he was sentenced to a long and torturous death. The next day vast crowds gathered to witness the spectacle. James was hung up, with his limbs stretched out in the shape of a cross. Finger by finger, toe by toe, limb by limb, he was chopped to pieces (which is what his surname “Intercisus” means, by the way). After every chop he let out a prayer of praise to God, loud and clear (much to the dismay of the King and his council), until he was nothing but a bloody human torso, laying immobile on the ground. Finally one of the executioners sent him to his reward by severing his neck.
I am not saying for sure that his terrible martyrdom was directly caused by his earlier apostasy, but there are some who think so. In any case, though James lost temporary honors and pleasures by staying faithful to his friendship with Christ, we have to admit that he won lasting fame and eternal happiness in exchange. It was a good trade, I’d say, and I would hate to see you make any other.