25 July: St. James, Apostle (Chrysostom on the Gospel reading)

Today is the feast of St. James the Apostle.  I am sure other blogs will tell you about the great Apostle.  I will give you the perspective of a patristiblogger.

The Gospel for today’s feast is from Matthew 20:20-28, when the mother of the sons of Zebedee ask Jesus for an unthinkable honor.  This creates a division among the Apostles and Jesus predicts suffering and then teaches them in a new way.  St. John Chrysostom explains the situation a sermon on this part of Matthew.

He says, "The Son of man came not to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many."  It is as if here were saying, "I willed not even to stop at death but even in death gve my life as a ransom.  For whom?  For enemies.  For you.  If you are abused, my life is given for you.  It is for you.  Me for you."

So you need not be too picky if you suffer the loss of your honor.  No matter how much it is lowered, you will not be descending as far as your Lord descended.  And yet the deep descent of one has become the ascent of all.  His glory shines forth from these very depths.  For before he was made man, he was know among the angels only.  But after he was made man and was crucified, so far from lessening that glory, he acquired further glory besides, even that from His personal knowledge of the world.

So fear no then, as though your honor were put down.  Rather, be ready to abase yourself.  For in this way it becomes greater.  This is the door of the kingdoom.  Let us not then go the opposite way.  Let us not war against ourselves.  For if we desire to appear great, we shall not be great but even the most dishonored of all.

Do you see how everywhere Jesus encourages them by turning things upside down?  He gives them what they desire but in ways they did not expect.  In the preceeding passages we have shown this in many instances.  He acted this way in the cases of the covetous and of the proud.  So you can see why he asks whether we are giving our alms to be seen by others.  To enjoy glory?  Do not do this for glory, and you will enjoy it more.  Why do you lay up treasures?  To be rich?  Try laying up no treasure, and then you will be rich.  And in this case, wy do you set your heart on sitting in the first place?  That you may have the honor before others?  Try choosing the last place; work in the kingdom.  If it is your will to become great, then do not seek greatness and you will become great.  (s. 65.4 on the Gospel of Matthew – in PG 58:622-23; NPNF 1 10:401-2)

No matter how fall we think we have sunk, either because of our own mistakes, or the dealings of others, or simply by bad luck, nothing compares to how far the Eternal Son sank down when He condescended to take our human nature into an indestructible bond with His divinity, thus to suffer and to die.  When we think we have been slighted, this thought can be a remedy for ill will we might harbor towards others in our weakness.

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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