Today the Catholic Church celebrates the Feast of St. James, said to be the first of the apostles to be martyred.
In the Gospel for today’s feast day, the mother of James and John asks Jesus to “command that these two sons of mine sit, one at your right and the other at your left, in your Kingdom.” Jesus responds by asking the sons if they can “drink the chalice that I am going to drink.”
As I sat with that passage this morning, I was amazed at the alacrity which which James and his brother respond to Jesus. I’m not sure I could have answered so quickly. Were there really sure of their strength? Or were they just anxious to secure a promise to sit at the head of the class, first in line, at the right hand of Jesus?
As I put it that way to myself, I realized what a misconception of Jesus’ Kingdom the mother’s question and the sons’ ambition reveals.
It is a very human way of thinking of things to envision some people getting to stand closer to Jesus and others (the less important, less holy, less whatever folks) being pushed to the back. James and John want to make sure they get the good seats. But I think when fully realize Kingdom, there is no line, no hierarchy of closeness, no back of the bus. We all get to be fully with Jesus.
Apart from today’s Gospel, I mark this holiday for another reason. Tradition holds that St. James preached the Gospel in Spain and he is especially honored at Compostela in Spain – the end point of the Camino de Santiago (also known as the Way of St. James).
Four or five years ago on this feast, I wrote that it was one of my great desires to walk the Camino and that I planned to do so at some future point. As regular readers know, that point has come and I am only two months away from beginning my Camino.
And so I pray to St. James as I prepare for my pilgrimage to the place at which he is so honored.