Feast of Saint James, Apostle
2 Corinthians 4:7-15
We hold this treasure in earthen vessels.
"About that time Herod the king laid his hands upon some members of the church to harm them. He had James, the brother of John killed by the sword." – Acts 12:1-2
James and his brother John were fishermen and called by Jesus to follow him. They, along with Peter were witnesses to the important events in the life Jesus during his ministry. As such, they enjoyed a special place with Jesus and among apostles. As Jesus continued to speak about the Kingdom, it was but natural for the closest to Jesus to think about some prominent positions that they would enjoy once He came to power! Traces of envy, greed, power and prestige were beginning to form in the hearts and minds of the apostles.
On one occasion, when a town of Samaritans failed to offer a proper reception, James and John suggested calling down fire from heaven to destroy it. Jesus rebukes them: "The Son of Man came not to destroy but to save." On another occasion, their mother intercedes for a place on the right and left for her two sons. Jesus patiently reminds them of the ‘Cup’. So much for being part of the inner circle of Jesus!
James was among the first of the apostles to follow his Master in death under King Herod Agrippa I.
We all want the best for ourselves. Parents want the best for their children. The mother of James and John was no different; and yet she got it all wrong. Many a times, we get it all wrong as we follow in the discipleship of Jesus. We have our mood swings even as we try to understand what Jesus wants of us. And then there are examples of profound witness of discipleship in our contemporary world.
Yesterday Pope Francis met with Meriam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag, 26, a young Sudanese, at Casa Santa Marta, who was imprisoned and sentenced to death for marrying a Christian. She was accompanied by her husband, Daniel Wani, and their two young children, Martin, 18 months old, and Maya, born in prison two months ago. The Holy Father thanked Miriam for her witness of faith. She and her family thanked the Pope for his closeness, prayers and for the support of the Church.
Today’s feast reminds us that while grace is God’s free gift, there is a cost to discipleship. It reminds us that we too, like James and John and their mother, can have our own challenges in understanding the call to discipleship. Yet, if we remain steadfast in our faith, God will accomplish wonders in and through us!
Fr. Bruno D’Souza, CP, is on the staff at Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center, Sierra Madre, California.