The best of things

Daily Reading for July 25 • St. James the Apostle

The sidelong glance of envy distorts our ability to see ourselves realistically, because there will always be people in every category who are better or worse than we are. James may not have gotten much individual attention, but he must have developed a healthy self-acceptance that enabled him to be a valuable part of the group. It seems clear that he was transformed by the power of Jesus from a “son of thunder” to a “team player,” who did not push to get attention merely for himself. That is a remarkable change for one who had boldly said to Jesus, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you” and wanted to be sure he and his brother would be sitting right by Jesus when he came into his glory.

Instead of that glorious end, James became a martyr for his faith. Herod Agrippa, the nephew and successor of Herod Antipas, who put Jesus on trial, “laid violent hands upon some who belonged to the church. He had James, the brother of John, killed with the sword” (Acts 12:1-2). . . .There is an inspiring legend about the way James responded when Herod abused him as Caiaphas and the Roman authorities abused Jesus. There had been a time when James had wanted to call down fire on the Samaritans who had refused him hospitality. Now he did not call out for revenge in the face of being treated like an animal but was compassionate and dignified instead. He did not become a beast in reaction to the beast, but—as did Stephen when he was being stoned, and Jesus when he was crucified—looked up to heaven and asked God’s forgiveness for the people who were putting him to death. This was the great witness of the martyrs when, in the worst of times, they did the best of things.

From “James and James, the Greater and Lesser,” in The First to Follow: The Apostles of Jesus by John R. Claypool, edited by Ann Wilkinson Claypool. Copyright © 2008. Used by permission of Morehouse Publishing, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

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