The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve.
Jesus spoke these words in response to an attempted power grab by two of his closest disciples. Through their mother, James and John had asked to be seated at Jesus’ right and left when he came into his kingdom. Like his brother, James must have felt that he deserved special treatment. Perhaps it was because he came from a relatively well-off family: his father could afford to hire men to work for him. Or maybe it was because Jesus had singled him out, along with John and Peter, to witness miracles that the other apostles missed out on.
Whatever the case, this story tells us that James had more to learn about following Jesus. This is not the attitude of someone dedicated to serving people. It’s the attitude of a man hoping to be served instead.
But what a change of heart! As he continued to follow Jesus and especially after he received the Holy Spirit, James went from seeking recognition to offering himself in service to the gospel, wherever that service might take him. He could have chosen any ministry he wanted, perhaps a quiet life leading a Christian community in a small town or village with little risk of having to sacrifice too much. He could have even gone back to fishing in Capernaum! But he chose instead to continue preaching, thus putting himself in harm’s way.
That choice ultimately led to his martyrdom. Just as Jesus had promised, James truly did “drink the chalice” that Jesus drank.
James stands at the head of a long line of saints who gave up their lives out of devotion to God’s people. That line includes martyrs like St. Lawrence and Edith Stein, evangelists like Francis Xavier, and workers of charity like Jeanne Jugan. It also includes countless other men and women whose stories only God knows.
Jesus is asking you to join this line as well, in whatever way you can. There are people all around you who need to be cared for. So take James as your model, and try to give just a little bit more to them today.
word among us