"The mother of Zebedee's sons came up to [Jesus] accompanied by her sons, to do Him homage and ask of Him a favor." —Matthew 20:20
James' mother was proud of her boys, James and John. Her sons were on the fast track to the top in the fledgling Kingdom of God. She watched her sons get off to a flying start in Jesus' kingdom, leaving the family business to follow Jesus (Mt 4:22).
Her boys quickly became two of the top three apostles, that is, Peter, James, and John. These three were privileged intimates of Jesus and were granted special access to Him not given the other apostles (see Mk 5:37; 9:2; 14:33).
When she asked Jesus to promote her boys to surpass Peter, Jesus gently corrected mother and sons, saying: "Whoever wants to rank first among you must serve the needs of all" (Mt 20:27).
Then Jesus brought the family to the school of the cross. Mother passed the test, following Jesus to the cross, attending to His needs (Mt 27:55-56). John also passed the test, standing at the foot of the cross with Jesus (Jn 19:26-27). James failed miserably, abandoning Jesus and fleeing in terror (Mk 14:50).
After receiving the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 2:4), James watched his brother surpass him in stature (see Acts 3:1ff; 4:7, 13, 19). Finally, James grasped Jesus' lesson of humble service. After failing at Calvary, he passed the greatest test of discipleship and became the first of all (Mt 20:27), the first apostle to give his life for Jesus in martyrdom (Acts 12:2). With St. James, let us allow Jesus to turn our failures into His greatest victories.
Prayer: Jesus, I'm a cracked pot (2 Cor 4:7), but You are the Potter (Is 64:7; Jer 18:6). Mold me as You wish, for Your glory.
Promise: "Those that sow in tears shall reap rejoicing." —Ps 126:5
Praise: St. James repented of his lack of faith in Jesus and received that love which casts out all fear (1 Jn 4:18) and conquers death.
Reference: (This teaching was submitted by a member of our editorial team.)
Rescript: †Most Reverend Carl K. Moeddel, Vicar General and Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, January 22, 2007
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