YEAR B: HOMILY FOR FEAST OF SAINT JAMES THE APOSTLE
HOMILY THEME: LESSONS FROM THE LIFE OF ST. JAMES THE APOSTLE.
BY: Fr. Evaristus Abu
“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant.” (Matthew 20:25-26).
As we celebrate the feast of St. James today, we are drawn to reflect on the remarkable personality of this great apostle who shared his blood for the sake of the faith. It so turned out that amongst the apostles of Jesus, James was the first to die a martyr’s death under the sword of Herod.
In the Gospel passage, we see the mother of James and John presenting her sons before Jesus to make a request: “Please permit that these two sons of mine may sit one at your left and the other at your right hand.” This is one lesson we learn from James and his brother; the fact that we must not only work and pray for our earthly needs, we must also focus our prayers on achieving heaven.
For them to bring their mother to Jesus, it shows they knew Jesus very well. They knew Jesus was close to his own mother and that Jesus never refuses whatever Mary asks. They didn’t want a “No” for an answer so they went as far as bringing their mother. Dear friends, we must be so determined to make heaven to the extent that we ask others to pray for us in other to be among those who would be found worthy of God’s eternal city.
When Jesus asked: “Can you drink of the cup? (suffering, persecution, hardship etc. that would follow), it was not the mother who responded but James and John themselves answered: “Yes we can!” This shows their faith and willingness to overcome any challenge in their ambition for heaven.
The phrase “yes we can!” was made popular not too long ago when Barrack Obama was contesting to become the first black president of America. Dear friends, nothing is impossible for the man who believes. Keep repeating the phrase “yes, I can” and new possibilities will always open for you.
Note that Jesus neither answered “yes” or “no” to their request, instead he said: “You will drink of the cup but as for seats at my right and left, they belong to those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” This again is another lesson we must learn: You may be ready to do anything, even up to shedding your blood like James and John but never forget that it is not your ambition or your effort that would get you what you want, but the WILL of God.
Prayer is not a command, it is a plea, a plea that our will may align with God’s will. No matter how hard we pray, God’s will always prevail. This is the lesson we learn from Jesus’ response to James and John.
Finally as St. Paul says in the first reading, let nothing discourage you. Not even the fact that your prayers are not granted for “we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.” 2 Corinthians 4:8-9
At the end of the day, the other disciples became indignant with James and John for coming out openly to express their ambition for heaven. It became an occasion for Jesus to teach them about servant leadership. We must never be like the pagans when we are placed in charge of others. Never boss over people; the greater you become, the humbler you should be. There is more glory in serving than in being served.
James eventually drank the cup. He died a martyr for the sake of the Gospel. As to whether he got the seat in heaven, we shall find out when we eventually get there. Nevertheless, in the meantime, let us ask for his intercession and learn from his determination and zeal to achieve heaven. Let us make heaven a priority.
Let us Pray: Lord Jesus, grant that nothing may ever prevent me from achieving eternal life with you in paradise. Amen.
*Be Happy. Live Positive. Have Faith. It is well with you. God bless you. (Feast of St. James, the Apostle. Bible Study: 2nd Corinthians 4:7-15, Psalm 126:1-6, Matthew 20:20-28).