“I chose you from the world, to go and bear fruit that will last” ~ John 15:16
I must confess that at first I thought it odd that on this the day we celebrate the Feast of St. James the Apostle, a Gospel passage was chosen (Matthew 20:20-28) which in fact paints our guest of honor in a rather unflattering light. After all, this was a loyal and tireless disciple, a man who contributed profoundly to the establishment of the early church, even going on to “die by the sword” (Acts 12:2) and in essence becoming the 1st of the 12 to perish by way of a martyr’s death.
Instead we encounter the mother of James and John seeking to pull off something of an “inter-apostolic coup” if you will. But it is when she asks Jesus to command that her two sons sit, one at his left and one at his right in God’s Heavenly Kingdom, that we are reminded of the virtues of service and humility, traits that are held in the highest of esteem in the eyes of God, far more so than places of honor and status.
God’s way is not man’s way.
So although James would at first appear to be fueled by vanity, misguided ambition and selfishness, he is taught a valuable lesson from the Master. More importantly, he took that lesson and put it into action immediately in the form of service and evangelization to others. For just as Jesus’ earthly crown was one made of thorns and his throne an ancient Roman instrument of death, James would go on to achieve martyrdom, serving as the ultimate example to us and in turn teaching us all an invaluable lesson: In life, it’s not so much about how you start, but how you finish.
“St. James, glorious Martyr of our Church, please pray for us.” ~ Amen