Daily Archives: July 25, 2021

Saint James, Apostle

Guido_Reni_-_Saint_James_the_Greater_-_Google_Art_ProjectAble to Drink the Cup

Today we look at one of the “Sons of Thunder.” He was quite ambiguous, or was it his mother?

The mother of the sons of Zebedee came to Jesus with her sons, and kneeling before him, she asked a favor 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.”  (Matthew 20:20-23)

James and John were among the first disciples called by Jesus. They were with their father Zebedee by the seashore when Jesus called them and they immediately followed Him. Along with Peter they were chosen by Jesus to bear witness to his Transfiguration. Thus, they were significant to Jesus’ ministry.

Their mother thought they were significant enough to request a special place for them in Jesus’ kingdom, but she did not understand what this might mean. James was chosen for greatness in ways his mother did not expect, nor did James.

What was the cup to which Jesus referred in answering the mother? It was the cup that Jesus understood too well. In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus prayed this prayer:

“My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”  (Matthew 26:39)

James, indeed, drank the cup that Jesus drank. James is traditionally believed to be the first of the twelve apostles who was martyred for the faith. We read about it in the Book of Acts:

Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church. He killed James the brother of John with the sword, and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. This was during the days of Unleavened Bread.  (Acts 12:1-3)

The Festival of Unleavened Bread was the Jewish Passover. Jesus has become the Passover for those who believe in Him. Because James was faithful in preaching the Passover of Christ he was privileged to join his Lord in laying down his life for the Church. James went from being a big-shot to a hero of the faith by following in the footsteps of Jesus.

Where would the Christian Church be today without the faith and testimonies of the martyrs? If the Early Church were preaching today’s “Gospel” message the Church would probably not even exist. So many today are seeking a higher place and a greater prosperity for themselves. Such seeking only causes envy and division within the Church. Jesus attempted to put a stop to it with His disciples:

When the ten heard about this, they were indignant 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 your 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.”  (Matthew 20:24-28)

Having just celebrated Mary Magdalene as a true servant leader of God, we now celebrate James, the first apostle martyred for the sake of the Gospel. He was able to drink the cup. Let us pray for the grace and courage that more Church servant leaders will step forward in our day. Perhaps we may be included among them.

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Ninth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 12

Track 1:  Strengthen Your Inner Being 

2 Samuel 11:1-15
Psalm 14
Ephesians 3:14-21
John 6:1-21

God referred to King David as a man after my own heart. The Apostle Paul reminds us:

When he had removed Saul, he made David their king. In his testimony about him he said, ‘I have found David, son of Jesse, to be a man after my heart, who will carry out all my wishes.’   (Acts 13:22)

David had a driving force to implements the commandments of God. But there was another force working within him. Reading from 2 Samuel:

It happened, late one afternoon, when David rose from his couch and was walking about on the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; the woman was very beautiful. David sent someone to inquire about the woman. It was reported, “This is Bathsheba daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite.” So David sent messengers to get her, and she came to him, and he lay with her. (Now she was purifying herself after her period.) Then she returned to her house. The woman conceived; and she sent and told David, “I am pregnant.”   (2 Samuel 11:2-5)

David’s desire for Bathsheba caused grave consequences. David attempted to get Uriah, her husband, to sleep with his wife. But Uriah would not do so while he was on military duty. David’s act of adultery would lead to another crime:

In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab, and sent it by the hand of Uriah. In the letter he wrote, “Set Uriah in the forefront of the hardest fighting, and then draw back from him, so that he may be struck down and die.”   (2 Samuel 11:14-15)

Adultery led to murder as David tried to coverup his sin. How could this happen? How could a man after God’s own heart do these things?

Our flesh is a very powerful force.It is a desire to gratify ourselves at the expense of others. In fact, the flesh does not even consider others. Apostle Paul write::

For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.  (Romans 7:18-19)

This is not Paul writing about his days as a Pharisee. As a Pharisee Paul wrote:

If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.   (Philippians 3:4-6)

As Christians, we are not exempt from the temptations of the flesh. In fact, we are in a spiritual battle with the flesh. The Apostle Paul wrote:

Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want.   (Galatians 5:16-17)

We cannot defeat the flesh on our own strength. We are no match for it. But the flesh has been defeated already at the cross, just as sin, hell, and death have been defeated. The Apostle Paul reminds us:

Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.   (Galatians 5:22-24)

How do we crucify the flesh? We must decide to whom do we belong. We must choose the Spirit over the flesh. And we must do this daily. Jesus died for our sins on the cross once and for all. Thus he giv3w us the power to defeat sin. But we must take up our cross daily. Jesus said:

“If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”   (Luke 9:23)

The Apostle Paul wrote:

I die every day! That is as certain, brothers and sisters, as my boasting of you—a boast that I make in Christ Jesus our Lord.   (1 Corinthians 15:31)

What is our desire? Each day we must choose. The Apostle Paul prayed:

I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love.   (Ephesians 3:16-19)

God will strengthen or inner being when we pursue him.  Once we taste God’s riches in glory we will not want to choose the flesh. Let us keep seeking Jesus. We are living in the time when God is pouring out his glory on all flesh. Let Pentecost become  our Pentecost.

 

Track 2:

2 Kings 4:42-44
Psalm 145:10-19
Ephesians 3:14-21
John 6:1-21

Both the Old Testament and Gospel reading involve miraculous healings. What do they have in common? Both involve skepticism. The task of feeding so many people seemed impossible. Yet the people followed the instructions that Elisha and Jesus gave. It took an act of obedience as well as faith for God to do his miracle.

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