Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Feast of St. James the Apostle
From Solidifying to Hollowing Out

Readings: 2 Corinthians 4:7-15; Psalm 126:1bc-2ab, 2cd-3, 4-5, 6; Matthew 20:20-28

As we celebrate the feast of James the apostle, our readings offer us an itinerary or trajectory for our meditation. At the start we see the mother of the sons of Zebedee asking that her sons may sit on either side of Jesus in His Kingdom. In so doing, she is walking the path of solidification. She is trying to establish her sons in secure positions of authority. And, of course, being their mother, is it not likely that she too hopes to benefit from their good fortune?

Jesus grants her request but takes her sons (and her?) on a very different and unexpected path. His is a very different form of authority: not that which would demand service, but that which seeks to serve – even to the last drop of his precious blood.

In contrast to the path of solidification, Jesus’ is the path of hollowing out. It is not an easy path. Those who walk it will likely find themselves “in difficulties on all sides.” But it is a path that holds much power and the promise of much fruitfulness, because in the process of hollowing out, we find ourselves becoming the bearers of something very precious. In the words of Paul, we become “the earthenware jars that hold this treasure, to make it clear that such an overwhelming power comes from God and not from us.” Although we may be “sowing in tears,” the Lord promises that we “will sing when (we) reap.”

This is the path that James himself walks. He, who first sought to solidify his own position of authority through his mother’s request, dies a martyr’s death when he is beheaded by Herod Agrippa in about AD 42.

As we continue to work towards realizing our various plans and projects, our many ambitions and aspirations, we might do well prayerfully to consider which path we are treading today.

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