Today we honor St. James the Apostle. James, his brother John, and Peter formed that inner circle of disciples who saw Jesus’ Transfiguration, the raising of Jairus’ daughter, and the agony in the garden. Like anyone given preferential treatment, we find that James sometimes let his status go to his head. As we hear in the gospel lesson today, James’ mother comes to Jesus Christ, asking whether her sons might sit at Jesus Christ’s right and left hand in the kingdom. I have always imagined the boys put their mother up to this. Alternatively, I can also imagine the boys endlessly arguing about preference and the mother just wanting to shut them up.
We have all had James moments. We have imagined ourselves with a bit more esteem than we should. Whether in our schooling, our work, our parenting, or even our church leadership, we have had those moments when we have thought of ourselves as more important than we should. Even the most humble among us have fallen into the trap – we figure out how to master something and we prefer others to do it our way too.
To us and to James, Jesus says: Whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave. James learned this lesson the hard way. James, who proclaimed he was able to drink the cup Jesus was about to drink, found out hat he really would have to by laying his life aside for others. He found out that being great meant dying for the Good News.
St. James is especially revered in Spain. Pilgrims for centuries have walked the Camino to honor James in his final resting place. The Camino, the walk, is much like the spiritual journal of James too. He went from being a puffed-up disciple to a martyr in Jesus’ name. He journeyed into the kind of humility Jesus demanded from the beginning.
The good news for James and for us is that we continue to journey toward embodying this humility. We too are invited along the “way.” We may not be able to make it there immediately. But if we journey with James on this way, we might find the way a little easier. Amen.