Feast of St. James

Today is the feast of St. James, a.k.a Santiago, brother of John, one
of Zebedee’s sons. He was present at the Transfiguration and most of
Jesus’ miracles. He was the first disciple to be martyred, around the
year 42AD.

The martyrdom of St. James is significant in light of today’s
Gospel. Whereas he was the first of the apostles to be martyred, he
was also one of those who dared to ask Jesus for a special place in the
kingdom. Recall that James and John, accompanied by their mother,
approached Jesus and asked that they be seated on Jesus’ right and left
when Jesus reigns in his kingdom. They were asking for places of
honor, the best seats in the house, but Jesus could only ask them in
response, “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?” James and John
answered in the affirmative, and indeed, like Jesus, James died for his

There is something in us that wants to be given importance. We feel
good when we are praised or affirmed, and rightly so. But sometimes we
start doing things for the sake of being praised. While this is a very
human impulse, Jesus turns the table on us and says that “anyone who
wants to be great among you must be your servant, and anyone who wants
to be first among you must be your slave, just as the Son of Man came
not to be served but to serve….”

Here we have in summary Jesus’ radical idea of servant leadership. To
be great is not to be recognized or acknowledged as such, but to be a
humble servant. To be first is not to get ahead of all the others, but
to be their slave. This goes against the wisdom of the world. Even
when we try to be servant leaders, people can still praise us for it,
and that’s fine as long as our motivations are clear. Besides, those
moments of praise and adulation do not last. In the end, servant
leadership is a lifestyle, something we try to
do day in and day out, especially when no one is looking. It is to
fulfill our daily duties and commitments with humility and love, even
when we are not appreciated for it. At times we may even be persecuted
or ridiculed for our commitments. At times we may have to swallow our
pride for the sake of the greater good.

Let us be like James. Let us acknowledge our all too human feelings of
self-importance, and then learn to be humble servants of the Lord.

“Lord Jesus, make me a servant of love for your kingdom, that I may
seek to serve rather than be served. Inflame my heart with love that I
may give generously and serve joyfully for your sake.”