Sunday, September 19, 2021

Saint James' Turnaround

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B, September 18-19, 2021

“Where selfish ambition exists, there is disorder and every sort of foul practice”


Jesus, in today’s Gospel, is traveling with his Apostles and is trying to communicate that He will be put to death soon.  And what are they doing…arguing about who of them is the greatest.  That had to be gut-wrenching for Jesus.


After His resurrection, He appears to his Apostles, and they can’t believe it is really him and I am sure He was tempted to say “I told you on three different occasions, I laid it all out, but you were arguing about which of you was the greatest!”


Our 2nd reading today was written by one of those Apostles who was arguing about who is the greatest.  Let me repeat, our 2nd reading is written by one of the Apostles who was arguing about who was the greatest.  But now, in this post resurrection version of Saint James, he is able to warn “Where selfish ambition exists, there is disorder and every foul practice.”  He could have added on “I know, because while Jesus was still with us, we would waste time arguing over who was the greatest.


So what accounts for the conversion of Saint James and the other Apostles?  Certainly seeing Jesus’ resurrected body and seeing Jesus ascend into Heaven could not have hurt.  But the Apostles, even after the Ascension, still go back to the upper room and continue to hide for another 10 days.


The deep conversion of Saint James and his brother Apostles takes place at Pentecost when the Holy Spirit descends upon them.  It is the Holy Spirit that gives the Apostles (and also all of us who have been confirmed) the power and authority and strength to go forth – when a person authentically encounters the Holy Spirit, they are never the same.


The Sacrament of Confirmation is our own individual Pentecost.  If you have not been confirmed yet, do whatever it takes to get confirmed.  The time is RIGHT NOW for more disciples of Jesus, saintly witnesses willing to defend Christ and His Church, even laying down their lives if necessary.  The Holy Spirit through Confirmation gives you the power, if you just cooperate with it, to do a 180 like James the Apostle did.


Do not let selfish ambition get in the way of your pursuit of holiness through confirmation, do not worry about your place in the story of salvation, some are called to be small.  Would you be content if the Holy Spirit calls you to smallness, if the Holy Spirit put it on your heart like The Spirit did with Saint John the Baptist?  Through our cooperation with the transforming fire of the Holy Spirit, may we be able to say “Jesus must increase, and I must decrease”