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Feast of St. James. Can you Drink the Chalice I am Going to Drink?
By Deacon Keith Fournier
July 26th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
CHESAPEAKE, VA (Catholic Online) - Today we celebrate the Feast of St. James in the Roman Catholic Liturgical Calendar. Our Gospel records the encounter between Jesus, James, his brother and his mother: "The mother of the sons of Zebedee approached Jesus with her sons and did him homage, wishing to ask him for something. He said to her, "What do you wish?" She answered him, "Command that these two sons of mine sit, one at your right and the other at your left, in your Kingdom." Jesus said in reply, "You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the chalice that I am going to drink?" They said to him, "We can."
He replied, "My chalice you will indeed drink, but to sit at my right and at my left, this is not mine to give but is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father." When the ten heard this, they became indignant at the two brothers. But Jesus summoned them and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and the great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave. Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Mt. 20: 20 - 28)
James was the son of Zebedee and brother of John. From faithful stock, we see in this encounter that some forms of zeal may be genetic. In fact, this zeal in both of these brothers caused the Lord to name them the Sons of Thunder.(Mk 3:14-17) However, human zeal is not sufficient to be a disciple of the Master. Like all human virtues, it must be baptized and transformed. And, so it would be in James. He followed the Lord on the way which would later be called Christianity for the first time in Antioch. (Acts 11:26) He was one of three to witness the transfiguration. He fell asleep during the great instruction which Jesus gave them in that Garden called Gethsemane.
The tradition tells us that after the Resurrection, James preached the Gospel in Spain. To this day, the pilgrimage path which bears his name is effecting conversion in the lives of many. He returned to Palestine in 44 AD and drank that chalice. He was the first Apostle to be martyred by order of the tyrant Herod Agrippa. The word martyr means witness. In both his life and his death, James was such a witness. In imitation of his life, we are also invited to follow the path of Jesus' struggle, the way of His rejection. We too are invited to climb the mountain of His great saving act of unmerited selfless Divine love. James, indeed all the martyrs, show us the way, the pattern, the lifestyle of surrendered love for God. They invite us to walk this way with Jesus, who, in His Sacred humanity, teaches us the path to our own transformation.
James may have missed the lesson of Gethsemane the first time around due to falling asleep,(Mt. 26) but he certainly learned to live it out in a life of discipleship The agony in that garden called Gethsemane shows us a very human Jesus and instructs each one of us. Yes, Jesus was Divine and, because of that, He alone could do for us what we could not do for ourselves, restoring through His passion and death the broken relationship between God and the people whom He fashioned for love and communion. With His outstretched arms, He bridged the gap between heaven and earth. In His triumph over death he defeated the last enemy and began the new creation.
In His Sacred humanity this man Jesus shows each of us how we are called to bear witness, to live differently. We are invited to greet and embrace even that which we do not want as the very means of our own transformation. We have been given the grace to accept difficulties, which, when embraced in love, can actually become a path to our redemption. The Saints also show us the way. They were so configured to the Lord that he lived his life through them. The same can happen with each one of us.
The author of the letter to the Hebrews wrote "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin." (Hebrews 14:15) The Christian tradition insists that even undeserved and unmerited suffering, when joined in love to the sufferings of Jesus Christ, can produce extraordinary fruit within us and around us. This is the mystery of suffering in the Christian life.
Saint Jose Maria Escriva once wrote, "The great Christian revolution has been to convert pain into fruitful suffering and to turn a bad thing into something good. We have deprived the devil of this weapon; and with it we can conquer eternity." How do we treat those circumstances that cause us to struggle? How do we deal with what we find unpleasant? Do we practice an adult form of avoidance and run, acting as if it will all just go away like when children cover their eyes?
Or do we believe that even unpleasant things and difficult people can actually be gifts from the hands of a loving God who invites us to walk in the way of His Son? How do we deal with unresolved conflicts or troubling relationships? Do we work toward resolution, making "love our aim", or do we avoid them, thinking they will just go away if we pretend they don't exist?
Now is the time to join the revolution of which this great saint writes. All of us inevitably experience Gethsemanes in our own lives, times of difficulty, distress, fear and anguish. Friends may have betrayed us, or those whom we love may have rejected us. Maybe things about our lives are being exposed, brought into the light, and it is uncomfortable.
It is often those very times, people and circumstances that can become the path to holiness if we learn to love as He loves. Our Christian vocation is to live as He lives, to love as He loves and to thereby become holy as He is holy. We are invited to embrace the way of surrendered love. "Can you drink the chalice?" the question Jesus posed to James and his brother echoes in this hour. What is the chalice we are being asked to drink? Let us decide today to make the choice and drink, saying as we do "not my will but yours be done"
When we learn how to live and love this way, the very people and circumstances that once seemed to be so difficult can actually become the path to freedom. When we learn to walk the way of forgiving love with Jesus, His redemptive mission continues through time and into eternity through our witness as well.
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