On today’s feast of St. James, the apostle, Matthew’s gospel describes the mother of James and John asking Jesus to give her sons privileged places in his kingdom. “Command that these two sons of mine sit, one at your right and the other at your left, in your kingdom.”
I’m not sure she would have fallen at Jesus’ feet as she’s pictured in the illustration above. They were related, after all, and her approach was probably more indirect. She probably reminded Jesus that James and John were his cousins, and she was one of his relations too. Family ties have always helped people get ahead.
Jesus doesn’t dismiss her altogether, but he reminds her that his followers are to serve and not be served. It’s a service that will cost them, even their lives. Following him doesn’t mean that they and their family would gain. Like the Son of Man James and John will have to give their lives “for many.”
They’re called by God to reach out, and reaching out can be hard, sometimes painful. It means going beyond those we call our own, our families and friends. It means reaching out to those we don’t know, even to those we don’t like. It means going beyond what we’re used to.
Later stories say that James and John went to places far beyond the Sea of Galilee where they fished with their father Zebedee and were loved and cared for by a mother who always had their interests at heart. Our church is a missionary church. It reaches out to the whole world. That’s what Jesus last words in Matthew’s gospel said to do: “Go out to the whole world, baptizing and teaching.”
That’s still his word today. Go out to the whole world, even if the world is changing and the future is uncertain. “I am with you all days,” Jesus says.