July 25, 2011 - Feast of Saint James, apostle

Today's Readings

James and John, with the help of their mother, ask Jesus to be put in the highest place. The thing about the highest place is that everyone else is in a lower place. The other ten Apostles stand around holding their breath. Perhaps they missed their chance? What if he says yes? When Jesus denies the request, they are relieved and suddenly indignant that anyone would even ask such a thing.

So Jesus teaches James and John, and all the Apostles, about the true nature of leadership in the Kingdom of Heaven. Leadership is defined by service. Here on Earth, the leaders are served by those under them. In the Kingdom, the leaders are the servants of those they lead. Here on Earth, the weak serve the strong because the strong can force the weak to be their servants. In the Kingdom, the strong serve the weak because the weak need to be served. Consider how much more sensible the arrangement of Kingdom is.

God wants to do great things for the world, but he is prevented by our sins. Everything that we can do well is a temptation to pride. Everything that other people can do well is a temptation to envy. Do you see what God is dealing with? If he gives anyone a special ability which could help the world, it is a danger to them and a danger to others.

Instead of our normal way of acting, out of envy and pride, Jesus calls us to act in a more sensible manner. If we can do something well, we ought to put that ability at the service of others. Every talent that God has given us is given for the sake of others. This word “for” is foundational to the life and work of Jesus Christ. Everything he ever did was “for” others.

If we are acting for others, there is no reason for pride or envy. We are all one team. Just like any member of a team, we can be glad to see the good abilities in our teammates or we can be envious of the stars. It depends on whether we want to win games or impress people. It is a bad player who only wants to win the game if they can make the winning shot themself. The good player is glad to see that someone has made the winning shot.