I always find it fascinating to think of James and John. They were two of the Apostles who were frequently called to accompany Jesus (along with Peter) when He wanted to pray. Whether on the mountain of the Transfiguration or in the Garden of Gethsemane, they were privileged to be present at several key moments. But even though they were usually referred to as the "sons of Zebedee" and "sons of thunder", they are probably remembered better for their mother than their father. Today's Gospel (Matthew 20: 20-28) tells the story of her approaching Jesus and asking “Command that these two sons of mine sit, one at your right and the other at your left, in your Kingdom.” I can only imagine how embarrassed they must have been! And the other Apostles did not let them off easily, either.They certainly could have gone down in history as the ultimate momma's boys.
This encounter, however, was a very serious turning point. They were put on notice that, if they wanted to follow Jesus, they had to be prepared for hardship. And they expressed themselves ready to take the challenge. Despite some initial missteps (falling asleep in the Garden, running away from the crucifixion), James, whose feast we celebrate today, would ultimately be the very first of the Apostles to give his life for the faith. His martyrdom stands as a final proof that he was indeed ready to "drink from the chalice" like the Lord.
What depth of faith that shows!
It is left to each of us to ponder whether or not we are ready and willing to do the same. While we may not be called to make the ultimate sacrifice of dying for the Lord, we are called to die to our baser instincts and temptations each day. How willing are we to embrace these denials? When the time comes to make a decision, are we more concerned about doing God's will or pleasing others? The mother of James and John may have made the first move in asking Jesus, but they each had to agree to accept what was coming. And they did. The Lord is now inviting each of us to follow Him in doing the will of the Father. What will your answer be today?