Today we celebrate the life of St. James, the Apostle. A powerful and courageous evangelist, leader, and martyr for the faith. And, yet the gospel reminds us of the humanity of even the saints.
Our first reading from St. Paul speaks to this human condition and our relationship with God when he says, “Brothers and sisters; We hold this treasure in earthen vessels….”The treasure of God’s presence within our imperfect mind, body, and soul.
James and his brother, John, were fishermen. They worked long hours, rowing their boats and lifting heavy nets with fish in all types of weather. They competed against other men cut from the same cloth. They were men with callouses on their hands and toughness to their character. So, it’s little surprise that when faced with rejection of Jesus’ teaching and his followers in a Samaritan town, James wanted to call down fire to destroy it. And, as we know, Jesus rebuked him.
And yet, Jesus saw in James and his brother, who He nicknamed “Sons of Thunder,” a man whose toughness and leadership could be used to bring many to God and their salvation. He called James to become a leader among the Twelve, a member of the inner circle with St. Peter and St. John. James was with Jesus when He raised a girl from the dead, when Jesus was transfigured on Mt. Tabor and when he suffered his agony in Gethsemane.
So how is it that James and his brother didn’t get it and were looking for seats of honor, trying to be the closest to Jesus? St. John Chrysostom reminds us that at that point, unlike us, James and John had yet to receive the grace of the Holy Spirit or seen the completion of Jesus’ passion, death, and resurrection.
Jesus takes the misguided though heartfelt request from James and John and their mother and uses it to prepare them to be like Him in their final act of love for their brothers and sisters in the faith.
Jesus wants to do the same for all of us, too, whether we are fishermen or other laborers in the calloused hands club or like Mathew, the tax collector who worked with a pen and scale.
Jesus wants to transform our lives by being faithfully courageous, recognizing the challenges in following Him, and persevering, as St. Paul exhorts:
“We are afflicted… but not constrained: perplexed, but not driven to despair, persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down but not destroyed ...” 2 Corinthians 4:8-9
My brothers and sisters, whatever you or I am facing today, St. James the Apostle is our witness to the hope offered through letting Jesus transform our earthen vessels.
May we recognize the treasure of God that we carry and be like James, willing to learn from Jesus so that we might give everything we have to the Glory of God. Amen.
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About Father David Marcham
Reverend David S. Marcham is the Vice Postulator for the Cause of Venerable Patrick Peyton, and Director of the Father Peyton Guild, whose members pray for Father Peyton’s beatification and spread his message of the importance of Family Prayer. Prior to becoming a seminarian, Father David was a physical therapist and clinical instructor, serving hospital inpatients and outpatients throughout the greater Boston area for eleven years. In 1998 he heard the call to priesthood and was ordained in the Archdiocese of Boston in 2005. Father David grew up in Quincy, MA, and has fond memories of playing soccer, tennis and running track. You’re never without a friend when Father David is around, as he welcomes everyone into his circle with a smile on his face!