Feast of Saint James, apostle
(II Corinthians 4:7-15; Matthew 20:20-28)
In an old television drama the father of a teenage basketball player comes in a room bragging about his son’s performance the night before. “Twenty-seven points,” he shouts, “How about that for my kid?” Nobody seems interested in listening to him, however. His son hogged the ball, and the team lost. In the gospel today the mother of James and John sounds a bit like this proud father as she recommends her sons to Jesus.
Jesus does not chastise the brothers for desiring higher offices. He does not call their ambition a sin or tell them that they should be ashamed. What concerns him is the possibility that the brothers seek the positions to call attention to themselves. Jesus advises the twelve that leaders are not to take advantage of their followers. He puts himself as an example: as he – the Son of Man destined to judge the world – does not seek his own welfare but the good of all, so must they, his disciples, follow suit.
James learned the lesson well. He became the first of Jesus’ twelve apostles to give witness to their master with his life. Today we honor him both by our prayers and, more importantly, by our imitation of his sacrifice that gives glory to Jesus.