“She said to him, ‘Command that these two sons of mine may sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.’ But Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking.” (Matthew 20:21-22)
As we celebrate the feast of St. James today, we are drawn to reflect on the remarkable personality of this great apostle who shed his blood for the sake of the faith. It so turned out that amongst the apostles of Jesus, James was the first to die a martyr’s death under the sword of Herod.
In today’s Gospel passage, we see the mother of James and John presenting her sons before Jesus saying: “Please permit that these two sons of mine may sit one at your left and the other at your right hand.” At first glance, it looks like it is just the sole request of the mother. But when Jesus asks “Can you drink of the cup? (suffering, persecution, hardship, etc. that would follow), it was not the mother who responded but it is James and John themselves who answered: “Yes we can!”
Jesus responds in such a wonderful manner: “Yes you will drink of the cup but as for seats at my right and left, they belong to those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” This scenario speaks volumes about prayer and God’s responses to us. Whenever we go to Jesus to ask for something, we are praying, and like James and John, there are times our prayers are not answered not because God is incapable of granting our request, but because, that which we ask for is not meant for us.
It is okay to be ambitious, it is a good thing to aspire to become the Head of your organization, the Chairman of your community, the President of your group, the CEO of your company, the Bishop, etc. You may be ready to do anything, even to shed your blood like James and John but you must bear in mind that it is not your ambition or your effort that would get you what you want but the WILL of God.
It is interesting to note that despite turning down their request, James and John did not resign from the company of the twelve apostles. They went all the way, they drank the cup; they spread the message by their lives and by their blood. Do not live your life only for the sake of rewards. Just do what is right and you will find inner peace and happiness.
Finally, as St. Paul says in the first reading, let nothing discourage you. Not even the fact that your prayers are not granted for “we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9).
Let us pray: Almighty ever-living God, if it is your will, grant me my heart desires, take this cross away but nevertheless not as I will but let your will be done. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Bible Study: 2 Cor. 4:7-15, Ps. 126:1-6, Matthew 20:20-28).
© Rev. Fr. Evaristus Abu