We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body.
2 Corinthians 4:7-15
7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. 12 So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.
13 It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.” Since we have that same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak, 14 because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself. 15 All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God. (2 Corinthians 4:7-15, New International Version)
A song of ascents.
1 When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dreamed.
2 Our mouths were filled with laughter,
our tongues with songs of joy.
Then it was said among the nations,
“The LORD has done great things for them.”
3 The LORD has done great things for us,
and we are filled with joy.
4 Restore our fortunes, LORD,
like streams in the Negev.
5 Those who sow with tears
will reap with songs of joy.
6 Those who go out weeping,
carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of joy,
carrying sheaves with them. (Psalm 126:1-6, New International Version)
20 Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him.
21 “What is it you want?” he asked.
She said, “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.”
22 “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said to them. “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?”
“We can,” they answered.
23 Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father.”
24 When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers. 25 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:20-28, New International Version)
The First Reading is a wonderful passage from the Second Letter to the Corinthians. Here Paul speaks of the paradox of how the power of Christi’s message is communicated through people who are weak and are the objects of hatred and contempt. “We hold this treasure in earthen vessels”, fragile and easily broken. “We are afflicted in every way…but not driven to despair….struck down but not destroyed…always carrying about in the body the dying Jesus so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh… So, death is at work in us, but life in you.”
Greatness in Jesus’ world, in his Kingdom, comes to those who dedicate themselves most to the well being of their brothers and sisters. And Jesus himself was a living example of this. He, the Son of God, came to serve and not to be served. His whole life up to his last breath was a mission of love and service given unconditionally to every single person. He died in shame and disgrace, a nobody. He totally emptied himself – for us. That is greatness.
Of course, in time James would learn this lesson and would follow his Master in giving his life for the sake of the Gospel.