Today is the feast of the Apostle James, one of the sons of Zebedee – chosen by Jesus as one of the Twelve. Today’s gospel is one of those stories that can make us still feel good about ourselves when the ways of the world seep into our good intentions for magnanimous behavior. It’s the story (MT 20:20-28) of the mother of James and John coming to Jesus to ask the best places for her sons in the kingdom. “Command that these two sons of mine,” she says, “sit, one at your right and the other at your left.” (In one of the gospels it was the sons themselves who asked for that privilege!) Pretty arrogant behavior and certainly disappointing to Jesus, I would imagine, who was trying to teach them about service and humility in love. Moreover, Matthew notes that the other ten were indignant at hearing the request. (Well, let’s face it, wouldn’t we be a bit put out?) Jesus says it isn’t up to him to decide (speaking of humility…) Then he gives a short sermon about the way we need to act in order to be true followers of the way of Christ in the world – a good reflection for this day.

You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and the great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave. Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many.