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Feast of St James: Learning to Drink from the Chalice of the Lord and the Great Christian Revolution

By Deacon Keith Fournier
July 26th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Saint Jose Maria Escriva once wrote "The great Christian revolution has been to convert pain into fruitful suffering and to turn a bad thing into something good. We have deprived the devil of this weapon; and with it we can conquer eternity." James, like the Lord whom he served, indeed learned to serve and to give his life for others.In the year 44 AD he became the first Apostle to suffer martyrdom. The word martyr means "witness". Each of us is called to a life of witness wherein we are configured to the character of Christ.

SNOWQUALMIE, WA (Catholic Online) - I write on the last day from the beautiful mountains of Washington State where I am finishing up a visit with my oldest son and his family. I received word from my home of a difficult turn of events in the life of some dear friends. The news came just as I finished Morning Prayer on the Feast of St James. How apropos it seemed.

James was the son of Zebedee and the brother of John. He was one of only three of the disciples of Jesus to experience both the Transfiguration and the Agony in the Garden. He certainly came to understand the connection as he lived his own life and vocation. His impetuous nature earned him the name, along with his brother John, "Son of Thunder" (Matt. 4:18-21, Mark 3:17).

Yet, as the Gospel account of Today's Holy Mass reminds us, he drank the chalice of the Lord whom he served with such dedication, courage and zeal. (Matt. 20: 20-28) Here is an excerpt: "The mother of the sons of Zebedee approached Jesus with her sons and did him homage, wishing to ask him for something. He said to her, "What do you wish?" She answered him, "Command that these two sons of mine sit, one at your right and the other at your left, in your Kingdom."

"Jesus said in reply, "You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the chalice that I am going to drink?" They said to him, "We can." He replied, "My chalice you will indeed drink.whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your servant. Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many."

James, like the Lord whom he served, indeed learned to serve and to give his life for others. According to tradition he preached the Gospel in Spain as well as in Judaea and Samaria. On his return to Palestine in the year 44 AD he became the first Apostle to suffer martyrdom. The word martyr means "witness".

Each of us is called to a life of witness wherein we are configured to the character of Christ. Each of us is, in our own way, invited to drink from the chalice of the Lord. We are constantly called to enter into His pattern of surrendered love; to walk this way with Jesus, who, in His Sacred humanity, teaches us the path to our own transformation.

Saint Jose Maria Escriva once wrote "The great Christian revolution has been to convert pain into fruitful suffering and to turn a bad thing into something good. We have deprived the devil of this weapon; and with it we can conquer eternity."

How do we treat those circumstances that cause us to struggle? How do we deal with what we find unpleasant? Do we practice an "adult" form of avoidance and run, acting as if it will all just go away like when children cover their eyes? Or do we believe that even unpleasant things and "difficult" people can actually be gifts from the hands of a loving God who invites us to walk in the way of His Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ?

Yes, He was Divine and, because of that, He alone could do for us what we could not do for ourselves, restoring through His passion and death the broken relationship between God and the people whom He fashioned for love and communion. With His outstretched arms, He bridged the gap between heaven and earth. In His triumph over death he defeated the last enemy and began the new creation.

In His Sacred humanity this man Jesus shows each of us how to live our own lives differently. We are invited to greet and embrace even that which we do not want as the very means of transformation. We have been given the grace to accept difficulties, which, when embraced in love, can actually become a path to our continuing redemption and transformation in Him.

The author of the letter to the Hebrews wrote "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin." (Hebrews 14:15) The Christian tradition insists that even undeserved and unmerited suffering, when joined in love to the sufferings of Jesus Christ, can produce extraordinary fruit within us and around us. This is the mystery of suffering and struggle in the Christian life.
 
As I heard the news concerning my friend at home I was reminded of the truth so clearly revealed once again in the witness of life and death held before us on today's Feast of St James. Most of us will not be called to the martyrdom of blood. However we are all called to walk the way of discipleship.

How do we treat those circumstances that cause us to struggle? How do we deal with what we find unpleasant? Do we practice an "adult" form of avoidance and run, acting as if it will all just go away like when children cover their eyes? Or do we believe that even unpleasant things and "difficult" people can actually be gifts from the hands of a loving God who invites us to walk in the way of His Son? We are called to holiness.

In the Old Testament the word often translated as "holy" literally meant- to be set aside, consecrated, for God. In Jesus Christ it now means even more. We who are baptized into Him are invited to live our lives now, in Him. To love as He loves; to pray as He prays, to walk as He walks, to suffer as He suffers; to confront evil the way He does.

All of us inevitably experience in our own lives, times of difficulty, deep sorrow, loss, distress, fear, failure and anguish. Friends may have betrayed us, or those whom we love may have rejected us. Maybe things about our lives are being exposed, brought into the light, and it is "uncomfortable".

It is often those times and circumstances that can become the very path to holiness if we learn to love as He loves. Our Christian vocation is to live as He lives, to love as He loves and to thereby become "holy" as He is holy. We are invited to embrace the way of surrendered love.

Jesus invited James, the Son of Thunder, to drink from His Chalice. Let us decide today to make the choices in our own daily lives to drink from the chalice, saying as we do "not my will but yours be done" When we live and love this way, the very people and circumstances that once seemed to be so difficult can become the path to freedom. We can learn to walk the way of forgiving love with Jesus and His redemptive mission continues through time in our own daily lives. 

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