Feast of Saint James, Apostle
Today’s Gospel for the Feast of St. James could be added to the listing of passages where Jesus gives a new meaning to words and concepts. For example, when someone told him (Matthew 12), “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, asking to speak with you.” Jesus replies, “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, and sister, and mother.” A new definition for family.
Remember the time (Luke 10) when a scholar of the law stood up to test him and said, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “What is written in the law? How do you read it?” He said in reply, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” And Jesus said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.” But because he wished to justify himself, he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus then narrates the parable of the Good Samaritan… knowing, of course, the hateful rift between Jews and Samaritans!
Or the surprise re-definition of “holiness” in Matthew 18, when the disciples question Jesus, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a child over, placed it in their midst, and said, “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.
So, in today’s Gospel, Jesus tells the mother of James and John that “top billing” means SERVICE… another new and different meaning! While the New Testament hardly presents the apostles as steadfast, heroic individuals who courageously stand by the Master through thick and thin — we know that in time they gave their lives witnessing to Jesus’ proclamation of the Kingdom. That gives me hope and encouragement! Can I be patient as Jesus turns things upside-down and inside-out in my life?
Fr. Jack Conley, C.P. is a member of the Passionist Community at Christ the King, Citrus Heights, California.