No person was ever honored for what he received. Honor is given by what he gave. (Calvin Coolidge. 30th President of the United States)
Gospel text (Mt 20,20-28):
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.”
“My chalice you will indeed drink,
but to sit at my right and at my left, this is not mine to give
but is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.”
When the ten heard this,
they became indignant at the two brothers.
But Jesus summoned them and said,
“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 to give his life as a ransom for many.”
James' mother was proud of her boys, James and John. Her sons were on the fast track to the top in the fledgling Kingdom of God. She watched her sons get off to a flying start in Jesus' kingdom, leaving the family business to follow Jesus (Mt 4:22).
Her boys quickly became two of the top three apostles, that is, Peter, James, and John. These three were privileged intimates of Jesus and were granted special access to Him not given the other apostles (see Mk 5:37; 9:2; 14:33).
When she asked Jesus to promote her boys to surpass Peter, Jesus gently corrected mother and sons, saying: "Whoever wants to rank first among you must serve the needs of all" (Mt 20:27).
Then Jesus brought the family to the school of the cross. Mother passed the test, following Jesus to the cross, attending to His needs (Mt 27:55-56). John also passed the test, standing at the foot of the cross with Jesus (Jn 19:26-27). James failed miserably, abandoning Jesus and fleeing in terror (Mk 14:50).
After receiving the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 2:4), James watched his brother surpass him in stature (see Acts 3:1ff; 4:7, 13, 19). Finally, James grasped Jesus' lesson of humble service. After failing at Calvary, he passed the greatest test of discipleship and became the first of all (Mt 20:27), the first apostle to give his life for Jesus in martyrdom (Acts 12:2). With St. James, let us allow Jesus to turn our failures into His greatest victories.