25 July 2006. Feast of St. James, the Apostle
2 Cor 4, 7-15; Psalm 126; Matthew 20, 20-28
St. Paul, in his second letter to the Corinthians tells us what Christian life is. First, he said, “We are persecuted by men, but never abandoned by God.” In other words, whatever happens to us, whoever abandons us, God will always stand by us. The loyalty of God is illustrated by our martyrs. To them, their sweetest moments with Christ are the times when they were at their most painful.
Today, we celebrate the Feast of St. James, the Apostle. He was born at Bethsaida, Galilee. He was a son of Zebedee, as the Gospel tells us, and he was the brother of John, the Evangelist. We know that he was the first apostle to die, martyred by Herod Agrippa I in 43-44 AD (Acts 12, 1-3). For St. James, his martyrdom is the closest he can get to approximate Christ’s suffering. It is when Christ’s suffering and his are one. St. Joan of Arc affirmed when she was abandoned, “It is better to be alone with God. His friendship will not fail me, nor his counsel, nor his love. In his strength, I will dare and dare and dare until I die.
Second, Paul tells us that we might be at our wit’s end, but never at our hope’s end. This means that there are times when we do not know what to do, but we never doubt there is something that can be done. There are times when we cannot see where we are going, but we never doubt that we are going somewhere, somehow. Per Jespersen has a story about hope. I have edited the story to make it just right for a homily.
Per tells us about Jack, who had a bad dream one night. The dream was clear to him, so he took out drawing materials from the cupboard and drew his dream. This was his dream.
A man is walking in a street in a town Jack does not know. All the houses are yellow, and there is a tree at each house. All the houses are alike with the same number of windows and doors, equally tall and equally old, with the same number of leaves and the same number of twigs. The man is lost and there is nobody to ask. He shouts, “Where is the hospital? I have to get to the hospital!” One window in each house gets up, and he hear voices shouting, “Go straight ahead. Just go straight ahead!” The man finally finds the hospital. This is the only different house in town — yellow, and the tree in front of the building is quite unlike the other trees in town. He presses the door bell to get in: the gate opens by itself. A man in a long black robe received him, “What do you want?”
“I am ill,” the man says. It’s my heart. It is so hot today and I am very weak. Can you help me?” The man in a black robe says, “Can I see your card?” The man finds a small plastic card and gives it to him. The black man takes the card and puts it into a computer; the man’s gene-card is seen very clearly on a huge screen. Each pair of gene is examined, until all of a sudden the picture stops. A small green arrow shows up on the screen – pointing towards a pair of genes which seems to be different. “We can’t help,” the black man says. “You have no future.” The gene-card showed that the man was different from the rest.
“Sir, couldn’t you make an exception?” “No,” the man in dark robes said. He gets up, pointing towards the door. As he leaves, the man shouts, “Why are there no exceptions? It is almost dark, and the man lies down to sleep.
A small boy comes running down the street. He runs directly up to the man; wakes him, but couldn’t. So, using his finger, he draws in the dust of the street – a pattern. And then the boy leaves. When the man opens his eyes, he is surprised. In the pattern are blossoming flowers— and each flower is different. Not one is the same. The man, then said, to himself, “there is still hope.” For Paul, hope is built in the very love of God.