Not Ready But Willing
25 July 2022, Monday of the 17th Week in the Ordinary Time
Feast of St James, apostle
Mt 20: 20-28
Following the Lord is not just a journey that takes place outside of us. It is a soul work. It is a journey that takes place deep within us. When we realize this, we will discover that follow the Lord not only with our strengths, but also with our human limitations; not only with our ardent desire to be humble servants but also with our pride; not only with our accomplishments but even with our failures. Why did not God call perfect disciples? Why did God choose you and me, perfectly imperfect?
Today is the feast of St James, the brother of John the beloved and one of the 12 apostles. Like those whom Jesus called to be part of his company, James had a share of human flaws. He’s ambitious. Only that his mother asked Jesus to give him and his brother John some perks. He, like John, was daring in taking Jesus’ extra challenge. But, unlike his brother John who stood at Jesus’ cross, James also feared and left. But how did he turn out to be one of those who witnessed for Jesus as an apostle and as a martyr?
In his ambition for worldly greatness and prestige, Jesus took James where he was and who he was. By giving James a space and by respecting his pace, the Lord patiently took those little efforts of James to be faithful and true until he was able to give his all to the Lord. Yes, he himself took and drank the cup of suffering. He followed Jesus on the way, even the way of the cross. According to tradition, after Jesus ascended into heaven, the apostles preached the Gospel and James went to Spain. Unfortunately, his preaching was not received. He was arrested in Grenada. When he was released, he went to Galicia.
In January 40 A.D., James was preaching the gospel on the bank of the Ebro River, a river of the north and northeast of the Iberian Peninsula in Spain that flows into the Mediterranean Sea. While he was there, Mary the mother of Jesus, appeared to him on a pillar and advised him to return to Jerusalem once the Church had been built. The pillar remains today and is placed at the Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar in Zaragoza, Spain. James returned to Jerusalem in 44 A.D. and was taken prisoner upon his arrival under the rule of King Herod Agrippa I. The king put James to death and his body was taken by his devotees and was buried at the Santiago de Compostela in Galicia.
We really cannot tell how the Lord works in our lives. But if we cooperate with Him and the grace that He lavishly gives us, like James, our undesirable values will be purified and our small virtues will be intensified. James was not at all ready when he was called by the Lord. But the Lord saw how James was willing to be formed. Indeed, the Lord never called the ready, but the willing, as Fr Ronald Rolheiser said it in his book Sacred Fire. But the key factor that purifies all our motivations and intentions is not just our desire to change for the better but the courage to learn, to love and to live like our Master, Jesus Christ.
We are all like James. We struggle in following the Lord. It’s ok. Day by day, let us not give up. Because the Lord does not only see us as sinners but as potential saints who, like St James, will shine like the stars in the vast sky at night. The light isn’t us. We reflect the Light who is Christ Jesus, the way, the truth and the life. Amen.
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