Bulletin – July 2016
“So the faith was planted: so must it be restored”
Eight Pond Place – Oyster Bay, NY 11771
The Chalice of Our Lord
Copyright © 2005 The Most Rev. Clarence Kelly
…..July 25th is the feast of St. James the Apostle. He is called James the Greater and was the brother of St. John. He is thus distinguished from James the Less, who was the first Bishop of Jerusalem. James the Less wrote the Epistle which bears his name and which was later treated with contempt by Martin Luther. James the Greater, the brother of John, was taller than James the Less. He was a fisherman by trade, and he and his brother John were partners with St. Peter. All three were Galileans.
…..James the Greater was called by Christ to be an Apostle on the same day that Peter, Andrew, and John were called. This call of James and the others is recorded in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. In the Gospel of St. Matthew we read: “And Jesus walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea (for they were fishers). And he saith to them: Come ye after me, and I will make you to be fishers of men. And they immediately leaving their nets, followed him. And going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets: and he called them. And they forthwith left their nets and father, and followed him.” (Matthew 4: 18-22)
…..Of all the Apostles, the three most favored were Peter, James, and John. These were the special ones. Peter was to be the first pope and visible head of the Church. John was chosen to be the protector of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the son who represents us. James would be the protomartyr – the first of the Apostles to lay down his life for Christ. These three Apostles are mentioned together in Sacred Scripture on a number of important occasions. For example, they were present at the raising to life of the daughter of Jairus. (Mark 5:37; Luke 8:51) They were also present at the Transfiguration of Our Lord on Mount Tabor. (Mark 9:1; Matthew 17:1; Luke 9:25) They were close to Christ at the Agony in Gethsemani. (Matthew 26:37; Mark 14:33) Clearly then, James was one of the three most important Apostles.
…..St. James, who died a most heroic death, was not always so holy. He was, it seems, always zealous. But, as often happens when zeal is not guided by right reason, his zeal produced both anger and ambition. One day Our Lord sent messengers to prepare for His visit to a city in Samaria. Now, a great hatred existed between the Samaritans and the Jews. Thus, when the Samaritans found out that Christ was going on to Jerusalem after His visit with them, they refused to receive Him. St. Luke says of this incident: “And they [that is the Samaritans] received him not, because his face was of one going to Jerusalem.” (Luke 9:53) That they would not receive Christ angered James and John. In fact, it angered them so much that they wanted Christ to destroy their city. St Luke says: “And when his disciples James and John had seen this, they said: Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them?” (Luke 9:54) Gently but firmly, Jesus rebuked them. He reminded them that He had not come into the world to destroy but to save. Again, we read in the Gospel of St. Luke: “And turning, he rebuked them, saying: You know not of what spirit you are. The Son of man came not to destroy souls, but to save. And they went into another town.” (Luke 9:55-56) It was for their fiery tempers, born of intemperate zeal, that Christ gave them a kind of nickname. He “named them Boanerges, which is, The sons of thunder.” (Mark 3:17)
…..Another incident in the life of St. James shows his ambition. It took place on the occasion of Our Lord’s last journey to Jerusalem before His death. The mother of James and John approached Christ on behalf of her sons. Salome was a good Jewish mother who wanted them to succeed in life. We read about this in the Gospel of St. Matthew: “And Jesus going up to Jerusalem, took the twelve disciples apart, and said to them: Behold we go up to Jerusalem, and the Son of man shall be betrayed to the chief priests and the scribes, and they shall condemn him to death. . . . Then came to him the mother of the sons of Zebedee with her sons, adoring and asking something of him. Who said to her: What wilt thou? She saith to him: Say that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on thy left, in thy kingdom.” (Matthew 20:17-18, 20-21)
…..Salome had a lot of audacity, especially when you realize she did this in the presence of the other Apostles. They were not too happy, for they, like James and John, were themselves not as virtuous as they later would be. St. Matthew writes: “And the ten hearing it, were moved with indignation against the two brethren. But Jesus called them to him, and said: You know that the princes of the Gentiles lord it over them; and they that are the greater, exercise power upon them. It shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be the greater among you, let him be your minister: And he that will be first among you, shall be your servant. Even as the Son of man is not come to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a redemption for many.” (Matthew 20:24-28)
…..Our Lord thus used the pride of the Apostles to teach both them and us a different standard and view of things. He wanted them to understand that the Kingdom of God on earth, that is to say His Church, was not to be like the kingdoms of the Gentiles. Quite the contrary! In the Church, the higher you rise the more you must be the servant of others. Authority is given in the Church not for the glorification of the one who rules, but for the glory of God and the salvation of those who are ruled. The rulers in the Church must have hearts like unto the meek and humble Heart of Christ. “Take my yoke upon you,” He said, “and learn of me, because I am meek, and humble of heart.” (Matthew 11:29)
…..In between the request of the mother for the glorification of her sons and the indignation of the Apostles, there is a very important lesson. It is a lesson about the suffering Savior and the place of the cross in our lives. For when the mother of James and John asked for the glorification of her sons, Our Lord directed a question to them. The Gospel says: “And Jesus answering, said: You know not what you ask. Can you drink the chalice that I shall drink? They say to him: We can. He saith to them: My chalice indeed you shall drink; but to sit on my right or left hand, is not mine to give to you, but to them for whom it is prepared by my Father.” (Matthew 20:22-23)
…..That question of Christ has echoed down the centuries: “Can you drink the chalice that I shall drink?” He asked this of the Apostles. He asks it of us today. Can we take into our hands the chalice of suffering, press it to our lips, and drink from it freely and willingly? Can we? Will we? Are we disposed to take up our cross every day and follow Him? Will we drink from the chalice that contains fidelity to faith and morals, devotion to the fulfillment of the duties of our state in life, obedience to the commandments, devotion to prayer, and devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary? Will we drink from the chalice of meekness and humility, of hunger and thirst for justice, of mercy, and chastity and purity in thought, word and deed? Are we willing to suffer persecution for justice’s sake?
…..If we would be like St. James, the answer must be “yes.” St. James was the protomartyr of the Apostles. As such he was an example to the Apostles and is one to us who find it so difficult to suffer for Christ. To succeed in this endeavor of carrying our crosses each day, we must do what he did. We must keep the suffering Savior and His love in our minds and hearts and understand that we must suffer too and strive to love Him always.
…..St. James was blessed to see so many wondrous things. He saw the power of Christ in the raising of the young maiden from the dead, as well as the glory of Christ on Mount Tabor. In Gethsemani he saw the love of Christ manifested in His Agony. He saw Power Itself and Divinity reduced to suffering and weakness out of love for us. As St. Augustine said: “By His power the Son of God created us. By His weakness He redeemed us.” As God became little at Bethlehem, He became weak in His Passion – with a holy weakness – inspired by the love that burned in His Most Sacred Heart. He became weak for us in that He made Himself susceptible to suffering and death. He took the chalice of suffering, as did His Blessed Mother on Calvary, and He drank from it till it was empty. He says, from His pleading Sacred Heart, “Can you drink the chalice that I shall drink?” Let us, with St. James, say: “YES, we can, with the help of Thy grace.” We will do so by avoiding sin and the occasions of sin, and by receiving the Sacraments regularly and faithfully.
…..To John and James Our Lord said: “My chalice indeed you shall drink.” Fourteen years later St. James took that chalice of suffering into his hands, drank from it, and emptied it. It was the year 44 A.D. Herod Agrippa was king. He was the grandson of Herod the Great, the same Herod the Great who sought to put to death the Infant Jesus. Like his grandfather, Herod Agrippa was an enemy of Christ. He was an ambitious man and sought to please the Jews. In this endeavor, he showed a certain regard for the Mosaic Law and Jewish customs. At the time of the Passover in 44 A.D., he arrested James the Apostle. In the Acts of the Apostles, we read: “And at the same time, Herod the king stretched forth his hands, to afflict some of the church. And he killed James, the brother of John, with the sword. And seeing that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to take up Peter also.” (Acts 12:1-3) But Peter was miraculously freed so that he might complete his mission as the first pope of the Catholic Church – the one and only Church founded by Christ for the salvation of men.
…..It is held on very good authority, that of Clement of Alexandria, that the man who accused James and who led the Apostle to judgment was so moved by the courage of James and his love of God that he was converted. He became a Christian, and St. James and he were beheaded together.
…..For a time before his death, St. James preached in Spain. After his death his body was miraculously taken to the northwest of Spain and later to Compostela which became in the Middle Ages one of the most famous places of pilgrimage in the world.
…..In this month of the Precious Blood, Our Lord asks each of us: “Can you drink the chalice that I shall drink?” Can we? Will we by ridding our lives of mortal sin and our homes of pagan influences in the form of lack of charity, unkindness, immodesty, bad music and books, bad use of internet and television, and bad behavior. The salvation of our souls is at stake. The love of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary – these are at stake. May we, by the grace of God and the intercession of Our Blessed Mother, respond affirmatively and act accordingly, and willingly drink from Our Lord’s chalice of suffering. For to be good in America requires that we suffer for Christ. For we live in the midst of a pagan culture in a post-Christian America. Let us follow the example of St. James and heed the words of St. Peter, our first pope, who proclaimed in his first great sermon: “Save yourselves from this perverse generation.” (Acts 2:40)