25Jul 25 July. St James, Apostle (Feast)

1st Reading: 2 Corinthians (4:7-15)

Grace is like a treasure in a clay jar. The apostle can endure whatever comes

We have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies. For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.

But just as we have the same spirit of faith that is in accordance with scripture—”I believed, and so I spoke”—we also believe, and so we speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus, and will bring us with you into his presence. Yes, everything is for your sake, so that grace, as it extends to more and more people, may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.

Resp. Psalm (Ps 126)

R./: 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./)

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./)

Restore our fortunes, O Lord,
like the torrents in the southern desert.
Those that sow in tears
shall reap rejoicing. (R./)

Although they go forth weeping,
carrying the seed to be sown,
They shall come back rejoicing,
carrying their sheaves. (R./)

Gospel: Matthew (20:20-28)

The ambition of James and John contrasts with Jesus’humble service

Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to Jesus with her sons, and kneeling before him, asked a favour of him. And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Declare that these two sons of mine will sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” But Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.” He said to them, “You will indeed drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left, this is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.”

When the ten heard it, they were angry with the two brothers. But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be our servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”


The “greater” James

James son of Alphaeus is often identified with James the Less, who is only mentioned three times in the Bible, each time in connection with his mother. Mark 15:40 refers to “Mary the mother of James and of Joses,” while Mark 16:1 and Matthew 27:56 also refer to “Mary, the mother of James.” Because there was a more prominent James (the son of Zebedee) among the twelve apostles, today’s James, the son of Alphaeus is called “the Lesser”. (James of Zebedee being “James the Greater”). Tradition identifies Clopas, the husband of Mary, with Alphaeus, the father of the Apostle James. This identification was accepted by early church leaders and so our saint today is James the Less .

The “greater” James was one of the first disciples to join Jesus, in Capernaum. The Synoptics describe James and John as fishermen with their father when Jesus called them to follow him [Matt. 4:21-22; Mk. 1:19-20]. He was one of the three apostles Jesus chose as witnesses to his Transfiguration. The Acts of the Apostles tells how Agrippa  had James executed by sword [Ac 12:1-2]. We also hear of James’ fiery temper, for which he and his brother earned the nickname “Boanerges” or “Sons of Thunder” [Mark 3:17].

It is the remains of James the Greater that are reputed to be in the shrine of Compostela in Galicia (Spain) and this James is the patron saint of Spain. Throughout the medieval centuries, Santiago de Compostela was regarded the third holiest shrine within Roman Catholicism (after Jerusalem and Rome), and the traditional pilgrimage to his tomb, known as the “Camino de Santiago,” has been popular with Europeans from the early Middle Ages onwards. In light of the many thousands who walk the Camino each year, one might even regard St James as patron of hospitality and of environmentally friendly tourism!

2 Responses

  1. Thom Mahoney

    This is my favorite source for reflections on especially the daily readings.
    It’s my understanding that today’s feast is for James the Greater, not James the son of Alphaeus. Am I wrong?

  2. Brian Fahy

    The Mother of the sons of Zebedee

    A mother always wants the best for her children. It is nature’s way. Enter the mother of the sons of Zebedee. Young people want to make a success of their lives – such is the ambition of the sons of Zebedee. It is only natural. Other people – the disciples – do not like it when someone tries to gain an advantage and so they complain. This too is understandable. There should be fair shares for all in this world, even though we know that does not happen.

    The deep heart of this story is the desire in every human heart to live a life that is a success. In the morning of life we look for it. In the midday we struggle for it and in the evening of life we perhaps despair of it. So many things seem to end in tears. One thing for sure that we learn about life as we live it is that we cannot control many of the things that happen to us or happen all around us, and which deeply affect our own ambitions and desires.

    My father wanted to escape the pit and see the world in the army. He saw India for a while and then was plunged into six years of horrendous war, and when it was over found that he had to go back to the pit to earn a crust for his growing family. Man proposes. The world disposes.

    In our youth, and especially in our health and strength, we are too busy living life to have time or need to evaluate it. We follow our instincts and hope that we are on the right track. Only when life breaks down do we stop and begin to wonder about the difficult mystery that life is and has become for us. And of course, it is when we get on in years that we find ourselves looking back and trying to evaluate the story of our life and to wonder whether it was all worth while.

    But God is kind and God has arranged in our make-up that we instinctively seek the good and the true. Our ambition to live successfully in God-given. It is not an aberration. We can go astray or be lead astray but we also know a wrong path when we take it. Conscience is our good companion just as family and friends are our faithful guides.

    God has created us to seek him and in the end to find him. Today we are reminded how our lives will be ‘successful’ even though the details of our story may involve sad and upsetting things. Sorrow comes to us all and we must help one another to cope with sorrow as we share the road. But the secret of our success is given here. Serve the Lord in gladness and serve one another every day. This is the highroad to a truly well lived life. The conditions and the circumstances of life we cannot control, as we cannot control the weather. What will be will be. But who you will be and how you will be – now that is in your gift.

    To serve one another is the highest form of love, and love is the success of life that we are looking for.

    Brian Fahy

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