Feast of Saint James, Apostle – July 25th
A boy who was in middle school showed sincere interest because he knew the fundamentals of the game and so his parents signed him up in a recreational soccer league. He was able to play the game better than the other boys who were on his team. While at practice he saw others having a hard time with fundamentals, such as dribbling the ball and how to head the ball with accuracy. Because he thought he was better than the other team members, he felt as if practice was a joke. Instead of assisting the coaches to help the rest of us learn the skills, he decided he was going to skip practice because he did not need to be there, and his dad agreed it was a waste of time.
When the kid showed up for the first game, he expected to be in the starting rotation and play a position in which he would have control of the ball most of the game. To his surprise, he was placed on the substitute list and never was put in the game. The team lost the game by a significant margin. When the game was over the kid’s dad gave one of the coaches an earful about why the “best player on the team” was not put in the game, and that the team would have won if his son had been in the game. The dad was disappointed that he could not see his son play, more than wanting to win the game, but he used that argument in defense of his son. The coach asked the boy’s dad if he knew what it meant to be a team player, but the boy’s dad retorted with the request that his son simply be in the next game, and evading the question. So the coach was bold enough to say that that being at practice is part of being on the team and required in order to play in the games, regardless of how good a player is.
We see the same desire from the mother of James and John when she approaches Jesus.
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.” (Matthew (20:20-21)
She wanted good things for her sons as followers of Jesus, and we read that James and John wanted the same. Yet Jesus states that it is not that simple; that just because they long to sit beside him in the Kingdom, it is not going to happen unless they accept the responsibility in order to do so.
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.” (Matthew 20:22-23)
The dad of the boy sat down and had a talk about what the coach had said about being part of the team. The boy still felt it was not fair, and his dad asked him if he was really serious about playing, and if so, the needed to understand that the coach has the right to decide who plays and does not play; the reward of playing in the games results from being a team player, and not being a team player results in being benched. The following Scripture ties into this point.
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.” (Matthew 20:26-28)
Now let’s apply this to ourselves… Are we so into ourselves to the point we claim to be followers of Jesus, yet we do not reach out to those in need? Are we being superior over others, and telling them we can do ministry better? Are we part of a Christian community? Essentially, are we like the boy who plays soccer for himself? If so, it’s time to change!