Wednesday, July 27, 2011

July 25 Santiago

Feast of St. James (Santiago)

As Peter, when his loyalty was unchallenged, would have said “possum” to the question of Christ, “Simon, do you love me more than these” (Jn. 21, 15)?, so also, James and John protest, possumus, that they will be able to drink from the cup that Christ is about to drink.

Gregory the Great comments:“The sons of Zebedee press Christ: Promise that one may sit at your right side and the other at your left. What does he do? He wants to show them that it is not a spiritual gift for which they are asking, and that if they knew what their request involved, they would never dare make it. So he says: You do not know what you are asking, that is, what a great and splendid thing it is and how much beyond the reach even of the heavenly powers. Then he continues: Can you drink the cup which I must drink and be baptized with the baptism which I must undergo? He is saying: `You talk of sharing honors and rewards with me, but I must talk of struggle and toil. Now is not the time for rewards or the time for my glory to be revealed. Earthly life is the time for bloodshed, war and danger.’“Consider how by his manner of questioning he exhorts and draws them. He does not say: `Can you face being slaughtered? Can you shed your blood?’ How does he put his question? Can you drink the cup? Then he makes it attractive by adding: which I must drink, so that the prospect of sharing it with him may make them more eager. He also calls his suffering a baptism, to show that it will effect a great cleansing of the entire world. The disciples answer him: We can! Fervor makes them answer promptly, though they really do not know what they are saying but still think they will receive what they ask for.“How does Christ reply? You will indeed drink my cup and be baptized with my baptism. He is really prophesying a great blessing for them, since he is telling them: `You will be found worthy of martyrdom; you will suffer what I suffer and end your life with a violent death, thus sharing all with me. But seats at my right and left side are not mine to give; they belong to those for whom the Father has prepared them.’ Thus, after lifting their minds to higher goals and preparing them to meet and overcome all that will make them desolate, he sets them straight on their request.“Then the other ten become angry at the two brothers. See how imperfect they all are: the two who tried to get ahead of the other ten, and the ten who were jealous of the two! But, as I said before, show them to me at a later date in their lives, and you will see that all these impulses and feelings have disappeared. Read how John, the very man who here asks for the first place, will always yield to Peter when it comes to preaching and performing miracles in the Acts of the Apostles. James, for his part, was not to live very much longer; for from the beginning he was inspired by great fervor and, setting aside all purely human goals, rose to such splendid heights that he straightway suffered martyrdom.”

Gregory underscores the point: `You talk of sharing honors and rewards with me, but I must talk of struggle and toil. Now is not the time for rewards or the time for my glory to be revealed. Earthly life is the time for bloodshed, war and danger.’We saw recently, “the secret of the desert is learning to lose. When you know how to lose, you also know how to love! In some ways, every moment in our life is a gradual refinement so that we are prepared to encounter death… `Stay in your cell,’ they [the desert fathers] advise us. Because so often we are tempted to move outside, to stray away from who and what we are. Learning to face who and what we are – without any façade, without any make-up, without any false expectations – is one of the hardest and at the same time, one of the finest lessons of the desert. Putting up with ourselves is the first and necessary step of learning to put up with others.”

John Henry Newman translates this call to bloodshed, war, danger, loss as “ventures” or “risk” of faith:

“They say unto him, `We are able.’’ (Matthew 20, 22).

“These words of the holy apostles James and John were in reply to a very solemn question addressed to them by their divine master. They coveted, with a noble ambition, though as yet unpracticed in the highest wisdom, untaught in the holiest truth – they coveted to sit beside him on his throne of glory.. They would be content with nothing short of that special gift which he had come to grant to his elect, which he shortly after died to purchase for them, and which he offers to us. They ask the gift of eternal life; and he in answer told them, not that they should have it (though of them it was really reserved), but he reminded them what they must venture for it: `Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? They say unto him, We are able.’ Here then a great lesson is impression upon us, that our duty as Christians lies in this, in making ventures for eternal life without the absolute certainty of success.” Newman continues:“Who does not at once admit that faith consists in venturing on Christ’s word without seeing? Yet in spite of this, may it not be seriously questioned whether men in general, even those of the better sort, venture anything upo his truth at all?“Consider for an instant. Let everyone who hears me ask himself the question, What stake has he in the truth of Christ’s promise? How would he be a whit the worse off, supposing (which is impossible), but, supposing it to fail? We know what it is to have a stake in any venture of this world. We venture our property in plans which promise a return; in plans which we trust, which we have faith in. What have we ventured for Christ? What have we given to him on a belief of his promise? The Apostle said that he and his brethren would be of all men most miserable if the dead were not raised. Can we in any degree apply this to ourselves?... This is the question, What have we ventured? I really fear, when we come to examine, it will be found that there is nothing we resolved, nothing we do, nothing we do not do, noching we avoid, nothing we choose, nothing we give up, nothing we pursue, which we should not resolve, and do, and not do, and avoid, and choose, and give up, and pursue, if Christ had not died, and heaven were not promised us. I really fear that most men called Christians, whatever they may profess, whatever they may think they feel, wherever warmth and illumination and love they may claim as their own, yet would go on almost as they, neither much better nor much worse, if they believed Christianity to be a fable.”[2]

John Paul II from Santiago (1982): to Europe, and therefore to us:

“I, John Paul, son of the Polish nation which has always considered itself European by its origins, traditions, culture and vital relationships, Slavic among the Latins and Latin among the Slavs; I, Successor of Peter in the See of Rome, a See which Christ wished to establish in Europe and which he loves because of its efforts for the spread of Christianity throughout the whole world; I, Bishop of Rome and Shepherd of the Universal Church, from Santiago, utter to you, Europe of the ages, a cry full of love: Find yourself again. Be yourself. Discover your origins, revive your roots. Return to those authentic values which made your history a glorious one and your presence so beneficent in the other continents. Rebuild your spiritual unity in a climate of complete respect for other religions and other genuine liberties. Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God. Do not become so proud of your achievements that you forget their possible negative effects. Do not become discouraged for the quantitative loss of some of your greatness in the world or for the social and cultural crises which affect you today. You can still be the guiding light of civilization and the stimulus of progress for the world. The other continents look to you and also hope to receive from you the same reply which James gave to Christ. `I can do it.’”

[1] From a homily on Matthew by Saint John Chrysostom: Homily 65, 2-4: PG 58, 619-622. Breviary III, Ordinary Time, Weeks 1-17, Office of Reading for James, Apostle, July 25: pp. 1551-1552[2] John Henry Newman, “Parochial and Plain Sermons,” Ignatius (1987) 917-918.

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