This week the church celebrates James the Apostle, patron saint of Spain, Guatemala, Nicaragua, fishermen and, most importantly, Great Horwood’s church.
Not much is known about him; he was the brother of John, son of Zebedee and in Monday’s Gospel reading, he got his mum to ask for a special place to be reserved in heaven for him and his brother. The Bible sometimes gets accused of lacking in a sense of humour, but I find the fact that it was James and John’s mum who asked to be quite hilarious.
Jesus deals with the question beautifully, saying that it is not up to him, but up to his dad to decide - there is no arguing with that.
This notion of prestige is something that the church has wrestled with ever since, and not always successfully or with grace. Jesus told his disciple, and still tells us, that we are to be servants of others and his Father. “The first shall be last and the last shall be first.”
Receiving honours, accolades and power are enticing experiences for human beings. Jesus turns those ideas on their heads. He says to be great is to serve. Some people do derive real pleasure from putting others' needs before their own in some situations, but to consistently make that your way of thinking and behaving takes a deeply spiritual change, a conversion of the heart.
If every Christian in the world reflected on just these words of Jesus each day, and put them into practice, how different would our world be? Imagine if all leaders were striving to be humble and lay down their lives for their followers, never seeking power and prestige? Imagine if all who were not leaders, per se, were seeking at all times only to better their fellow women, men and children and not themselves.
St. James went on to do a great many things; spreading the Good News, working for the building of the Kingdom. He was probably the first of the Apostles to be martyred (he is the only one whose death is mentioned in the Bible). A simple fisherman put his own interest aside and changed the world with love and he continues to inspire us all with his love and service.
Readings for this Sunday
Genesis 18 20-32
Then the Lord said, ‘How great is the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah and how very grave their sin! I must go down and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me; and if not, I will know.’
So the men turned from there, and went towards Sodom, while Abraham remained standing before the Lord. Then Abraham came near and said, ‘Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city; will you then sweep away the place and not forgive it for the fifty righteous who are in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?’ And the Lord said, ‘If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will forgive the whole place for their sake.’ Abraham answered, ‘Let me take it upon myself to speak to the Lord, I who am but dust and ashes. Suppose five of the fifty righteous are lacking? Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five?’ And he said, ‘I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there.’ Again he spoke to him, ‘Suppose forty are found there.’ He answered, ‘For the sake of forty I will not do it.’ Then he said, ‘Oh do not let the Lord be angry if I speak. Suppose thirty are found there.’ He answered, ‘I will not do it, if I find thirty there.’ He said, ‘Let me take it upon myself to speak to the Lord. Suppose twenty are found there.’ He answered, ‘For the sake of twenty I will not destroy it.’ Then he said, ‘Oh do not let the Lord be angry if I speak just once more. Suppose ten are found there.’ He answered, ‘For the sake of ten I will not destroy it.’
Luke 11: 1-13
He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.’ He said to them, ‘When you pray, say:
Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread.
And forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.
And do not bring us to the time of trial.’
And he said to them, ‘Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, “Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.” And he answers from within, “Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.” I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.
‘So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!’
Readings for this week
Monday 25th (James the Apostle) – Acts 11: 27 -12:2, Matthew 20:20-28
Tuesday 26th – Jeremiah 14: 17 – end, Matthew 13:36-43
Wednesday 27th – Jeremiah 15:10, 16-end, Matthew 44-46
Thursday 28th – Jeremiah 18: 1-6, Matthew 13:47-53
Friday 29th – Jeremiah 26:1-9, Matthew 13:54-end
Saturday 30th – Jeremiah 26: 11-16, 24, Matthew 14: 1-12