Reflection for the feast of St James, 25 July 2021

Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to Jesus with her sons, and kneeling before him, she asked a favour of him. And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Declare that these two sons of mine will 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. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.” He said to them, “You will indeed drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left, this is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.”

When the ten heard it, they were angry with the two brothers. But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

Matthew 20:20-28

Saint James the Greater 
*oil on canvas 
*92.1 x 74.9 cm 
*signed b.r.: Rembrandt f. 1661

I stand in solidarity with the mother of the sons of Zebedee, James and John. We don’t know her name but we do know that she emerges from the shadows as an advocate for her sons, asking a favour of Jesus. For this she is often blamed when she is only doing what any mother does on a daily basis; she wants the best for her boys. She is only feeling what any mother would feel; she is proud of her sons’ friendship with Jesus and she wants them to make the most of it.

Wanting the best for another person is a topical tale. Many people welcome the lifting of most coronavirus restrictions whilst many others think the timing is wrong. Opinion is sharply divided and yet cautiously we must move forward together seeking the best not simply for ourself but for others too. A spirit of loving kindness is required as we balance everyone’s expectations and needs, whilst ensuring that our inclusive care for those who are vulnerable or anxious is never forgotten.

Today is the feast of St James. James aspired to greatness yet in the end he was martyred for his faith in Jesus Christ. In the words of the prayer for St James, he had to learn that greatness was to be found not ‘in the false attractions of the world’, rather through loving kindness and faithful service.

James is the patron saint of Spain. Traditionally it is thought that his remains are buried in Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, a great place of international pilgrimage. As we continue our pilgrimage of life and of faith, may we resolve to serve one another with loving kindness in all that we do and say.

Rev Canon Nikki Arthy, Rector

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