St. Paul’s description in today’s First Reading, “We hold this treasure in earthen vessels,” summarizes perfectly the fragility and power of the Apostles. In today’s Gospel we see James and John trying to achieve lasting power. Their weakness is ambition. In Matthew’s account they don’t even request it personally, they ask their mother to request it; what does that say for their power? Our Lord teaches them that their true source of power will be the chalice of suffering.
We can easily fall into the trap of thinking that if we just had a little more status, a little more help, and little more organization, we’d be unstoppable in achieving our goals. James wanted authority and wanted to be able to fulminate towns; instead he received martyrdom at the hands of Herod. He fulfilled his vocation and we commemorate him more today for being a faithful witness of the Gospel than for having authority and power.
Every Christian bears a treasure, but in order to preserve it and use it for the purpose for which it was intended he must be aware of his own fragility and weakness. Let’s not focus on eliminating our weakness; instead let’s focus on glorifying God through the treasures he has entrusted to us, just as St. James did.
Readings: 2 Corinthians 4:7–15; Psalm 126:1b–6; Matthew 20:20–28. See also St. James the Apostle.