St. James and Christians’ Holy Ambition, Feast of St. James the Greater, July 25, 2013

Fr. Roger J. Landry
St. Bernadette Parish, Fall River, MA
July 25, 2013
2 Cor 4:7-15; Ps 126: Mt 20:20-28

In this homily for the Feast of St. James, the following points were made:

  • James, his brother John, and their mother all shared a defective notion of ambition based on Jewish expectations for a political Messiah, a new earthly King David. Jesus didn’t eliminate their ambition but converted it, purified it, so that it would become his ambition. He told them that to become great they needed to imitate Him in becoming the servant of all the rest, doing the dirty work, washing others’ feet, to try to bring them to salvation in the kingdom.
  • That dirty work involves sacrifice and suffering. Jesus asked them if they could drink the chalice he himself would drink, the chalice foretold by Isaiah in the prophecies about the suffering servant. They replied, “We can!” and Jesus told them they would. The Christian life always involves this type of suffering to serve and save others. St. Paul talked about that in the first reading, when he described that we will be afflicted, perplexed, persecuted, struck down, and carry within us the dying of Jesus so that Jesus’ life may be revealed within us. He defines Christians as those “who are constantly being given up to death for the sake of Jesus.” That’s our calling, too.
  • St. James lived this. He was the first martyr among the apostles, the first fully to drink Christ’s chalice. He was one of the three apostles, together with Peter and John, singled out to be with Jesus at the healing of the daughter of Jairus, the Transfiguration and in the Garden of Gethsemane, but unlike John whom we regularly contact in his beautiful Gospel, and Peter whom we see in the person of his successor, James is often for us in the United States not focused on so prominently. But it’s not that way in Europe. The tomb of St. James in Santiago de Compostela, Spain — where his body was moved by the first Christians and rediscovered in the early 9th century — has been for centuries the principal pilgrimage spot in the Christian world. It’s where tens of thousands make an annual pilgrimage of 478 miles to pray at his tomb, and along that journey, many come to experience a similar conversion like the conversion of St. James with regard to the ambition of their lives. In this year of faith which is explicitly meant to be a pilgrimage to greater faith, we all seek to live out this exodus and to adopt St. James’ newly converted ambition to imitate Christ the Lord in becoming great in holiness by seeking to be the servant of all by giving our life as a ransom to save the lives of others.

To listen to an audio of the homily given together with the Gospel passage, please click below: 

7.25.13 Homily



The readings for this Mass were:

Reading 1

2 COR 4:7-15

Brothers and sisters:
We hold this treasure in earthen vessels,
that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us.
We are afflicted in every way, but not constrained;
perplexed, but not driven to despair;
persecuted, but not abandoned;
struck down, but not destroyed;
always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus,
so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body.
For we who live are constantly being given up to death
for the sake of Jesus,
so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh.So death is at work in us, but life in you.
Since, then, we have the same spirit of faith,
according to what is written, I believed, therefore I spoke,
we too believe and therefore speak,
knowing that the one who raised the Lord Jesus
will raise us also with Jesus
and place us with you in his presence.
Everything indeed is for you,
so that the grace bestowed in abundance on more and more people
may cause the thanksgiving to overflow for the glory of God.

Responsorial Psalm
PS 126:1BC-2AB, 2CD-3, 4-5, 6

R. (5) Those who sow in tears shall reap rejoicing.
When the LORD brought back the captives of Zion,
we were like men dreaming.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
and our tongue with rejoicing.
R. Those who sow in tears shall reap rejoicing.
Then they said among the nations,
“The LORD has done great things for them.”
The LORD has done great things for us;
we are glad indeed.
R. Those who sow in tears shall reap rejoicing.
Restore our fortunes, O LORD,
like the torrents in the southern desert.
Those that sow in tears
shall reap rejoicing.
R. Those who sow in tears shall reap rejoicing.
Although they go forth weeping,
carrying the seed to be sown,
They shall come back rejoicing,
carrying their sheaves.
R. Those who sow in tears shall reap rejoicing.

MT 20:20-28

The mother of the sons of Zebedee approached Jesus with her sons
and did him homage, wishing to ask him for something.
He said to her,
“What do you wish?”
She answered him,
“Command that these two sons of mine sit,
one at your right and the other at your left, in your Kingdom.”
Jesus said in reply,
“You do not know what you are asking.
Can you drink the chalice that I am going to drink?”
They said to him, “We can.”
He replied,
“My chalice you will indeed drink,
but to sit at my right and at my left, this is not mine to give
but is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.”
When the ten heard this,
they became indignant at the two brothers.
But Jesus summoned them and said,
“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them,
and the great ones make their authority over them felt.
But it shall not be so among you.
Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant;
whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave.
Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served
but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”