Feast of Saint James, the Apostle
Daily Scripture Analysis

Daily Gospel

Feast of Saint James, the Apostle

 

Reading 1 (2 Cor 4:7-15):

 

Brothers and sisters:
We hold this treasure in earthen vessels,
that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us.
We are afflicted in every way, but not constrained;
perplexed, but not driven to despair;
persecuted, but not abandoned;
struck down, but not destroyed;
always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus,
so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body.
For we who live are constantly being given up to death
for the sake of Jesus,
so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh.

So death is at work in us, but life in you.
Since, then, we have the same spirit of faith,
according to what is written, I believed, therefore I spoke,
we too believe and therefore speak,
knowing that the one who raised the Lord Jesus
will raise us also with Jesus
and place us with you in his presence.
Everything indeed is for you,
so that the grace bestowed in abundance on more and more people
may cause the thanksgiving to overflow for the glory of God.

Gospel: (Mt 20:20-28)

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."


Fr. Anthony Dinh Minh Tien, O.P.

 

I. THEME: God’s power is at work in human weakness.

             

            Human beings are surrounded by spiritual and physical weaknesses. About the physical weakness, there are hunger, diseases, dangers and death; about the spiritual weakness, there are hatredness, enmities and sins. However, the Church’ history continually proved that God’s power is at work in human weakness. For examples, Peter who denied Jesus three times became the first pope of the Church; Paul who eagerly persecuted those who follow Christianity became the one who eagerly preached Christiany; Augustine who was an immoral young man became a holy bishop to preach and to write about God’s wisdom and love, etc.

            Today readings want to emphasize that God’s power is at work in human weakness and sin. In the first reading, St. Paul compared God’s power as “treasure in earthen vessels” which are human bodies full of weaknesses and sins. In the Gospel, because of the desire for authority and position, the mother of James and John asked Jesus to let her two sons sit one at his right and the other at his left in Jesus’ kingdom. This petition caused jealousy and division between the apostles. Jesus gathered and taught them the right way of leadership which are to sacrifice by enduring suffering and to serve all people.

II. ANALYSIS:

1/ Reading I: “So death is at work in us, but life in you.”

1.1/ The treasure in earthen vessels: The treasure are God’s grace and Christ’s power. An analysis of Paul’s passage shall help us to understand what he wanted to say about “treasure in earthen vessels.”

            (1) We are afflicted in every way, but not constrained: Paul were constantly under many pressures but he always found a way to get out. For example, when he was confined in prison, he could still pray and be united with God. If God wills, He still found a way to liberate him many times.

            (2) We are perplexed, but not driven to despair: Many times in his life, St. Paul as many of us didn’t know what is God’s will to follow. St. John of the Cross called these moments “the darkest nights,” when we didn’t feel God’s presence; but we still our faith to overcome and to go forward. When the moment passed, we reflected and recognized God’s wise providence.

            (3) We are persecuted, but not abandoned: Christ’s disciples shall be maltreated by worldly people, such as: to be reviled, seized, scourged and put in prison because they don’t live according to worldly standards and ways; but God shall never abandon them. He promised that he shall remain with them all the days until the Last Day, and the Holy Spirit shall help them what to say and to do when they are persecuted.

            (4) We are struck down, but not destroyed: St. Paul, as many faithfuls, was struck down many times, physically as be maltreated by the world or spiritually as being sinful. But with God’s power and grace, they stood up, reconciled with God and continually fight until their last breath.

            Understanding so, a believer’s life is a life of continual carrying of his cross to follow Christ, as Paul described: "We are always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body.For we who live, are constantly being given up to death for the sake of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh."

1.2/ So death is at work in us, but life in you: In God’s plan of salvation, Christ is the forerunner to open God’s plan by taking human body in order to preach the Good News, to train the disciples before sending them out and to suffer to redeem people’s sins.

            Imitating Christ, St. Paul and all Christ’s disciples also followed that way. They were sent to preach the Good News, to gather and to train disciples before sending them out, and to suffer to witness for Christ and for the Good News to reach all people. Christ’s disciples are ready to sacrifice all even to the point of shedding blood, because they knew: “Even when we were dead in our transgressions, brought us to life with Christ (by grace you have been saved), raised us up with him, and seated us with him in the heavens in Christ Jesus” (Eph 2:5-6).

            The faithful, after receiving their faith from Paul and other disciples, continue that process until the day which Christ shall return. If all are loyal to their mission and witness for Christ, the whole world shall listen to the Good News and become his disciples. At that time, God’s kingdom shall come as Paul hoped: “so that the grace bestowed in abundance on more and more people may cause the thanksgiving to overflow for the glory of God.”

2/ Gospel: Whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant.

2.1/ The fragility and weakness of human life:

            (1) The desire of higher position: "Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee approached him 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."

            There is a difference between Matthew and Mark about this event. In Matthew’s report, it is the mother who made the petitition; in Mark, it was made by the two brothers. Whatever, this is a human weakness which can often happen in human beings. They want to be higher than others, to have power and position, to be respected and served by others. James and John weren’t afraid to follow Christ, but to attain their worldly purpose.

            (2) The jealousy of human beings: “When the ten heard this, they became indignant at the two brothers.” This is another human weakness. They think that there are only two most important seats; if the Zebedee’s brothers have that two seats, where are they seated? Moreover, Simon and this two brothers were regarded as Jesus’ inner cycle!

2.2/ God’s wisdom: is totally different with human wisdom. Jesus used this opportunity to teach them two lessons:

            (1) Leadership by sacrifice: “Jesus said in reply, "You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink?" They said to him, "We can."He replied, "My cup 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."” The Church’s history recorded that James also drank Jesus’ cup by being a martyr at Jerusalem (Acts 12:1-2), and John drank the cup by being loyal to Christ all of his life.

            (2) Leadership by humble service: “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."”

           

III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:                     

            - We should never be discouraged in facing human weakness and spiritual fall because God’s power is still at work in us.

            - We must live according to God’s way and guidance which are to lead by sacrifice and service. We shouldn’t live according to human standard and way which are to look for power and position.

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