On St. James, Apostle

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Ipinagdiriwang natin ngayon ang kapistahan ni St. James.

May ilang mga bagay tayong alam sa kanya dahil mababasa natin ang mga ito sa Bibliya.

Kapatid siya ni St. John na isa ring apostle. At tulad ni St. Peter, isa rin siyang mangingisda. 

Lagi siyang kasama sa mahahalagang pangyayari sa buhay ni Jesus—tulad ng Transfiguration at Agony in the Garden.  Kaya nga masasabing sa 12 apostles, isa siya sa tatlong BFF ni Jesus.

Sa Gospel ngayong araw, narinig natin ang tanong ni Jesus sa magkapatid na si Sts. James at John kung kaya ba nilang inumin ang basong iinuman ng Panginoon. 

Madalas, hindi tayo umiinom sa isang basong gamit na.

Ako, kung kailangang kailangang maki-inom sa baso ng may baso, sisiguruduhin kong hindi lang dapat kilala ko ang uminom dito, pero dapat, kahit papaano, ka-close ko ang taong gumamit nito.

Ito ang kahulugan ng pagsasabi ni James at ni John na kaya nilang tumagay sa mismong basong iinuman ng Panginoon. 

We celebrate today the life of the apostle James—and except for Judas—all the apostles are given much importance by the Church. The Mass that we are celebrating today is not just a mere commemoration, but a feast. Hence, we had the Gloria earlier.

You see, the apostles are not simply holy men, they walked side-by-side with our Lord Jesus. They witnessed to His life and teachings. They were His collaborators, and as such, we consider them pillars of our Church.

Let me highlight three qualities of James as an apostle: Prayerful, Courageous and Humble.

Prayerful

James’ first quality is his being prayerful.

When we speak of the prayerfulness of James, we do not merely speak of his strategy, or his skill, or his technique in praying. Ang pagdarasal kasi ay tumutukoy sa relasyong mayroon tayo sa Panginoon. At makikita natin kung gaano siya katinding magdasal sa pamamagitan ng pagtitiwala niya sa Diyos.

In the first reading, we heard from the second letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians a long list of difficulties which someone who belongs to Christ needs to undergo: trials, questions, and persecution.

James survived all of these. Not because of his own capacity, but because God provides.

By this time, you must have heard of the passing on of Br. Elmer Rodriguez. He’s that Salesian who was quiet, but had always that warm ready smile.

I remember that Br. Elmer also exhibited this trust in the Divine Providence. For almost 20 years, he took care of admitting poor young people to Don Bosco schools where he would be assigned. And because they were poor, he also would have to take care of looking for a roof over their heads.

Yesterday, a lay mission partner proved this to me, as he confirmed that Br. Elmer would sometimes borrow money from him so that he could support his poor scholars.

No wonder, many Salesians would hear Br. Elmer constantly repeating his favorite expression: God Provides.

If you pass by Bosco Hall, you will see his coffin. And you will realize that never for a moment it is alone. There are always people inside the Bosco Hall to see him off. In fact, countless people have been flocking there since the early morning of Saturday in order to see him for the last time.

Hindi natin masusukat kung paano natulungan ng Diyos ang hindi na natin mabilang na mga kabataan at ang kani-kanilang mga pamilya dahil nabigyan sila ng oportunidad na makapag-aral sa Don Bosco at makapaghanap-buhay ng marangal. At ito’y dahil sa isang simpleng Salesian brother na hindi mangiming magtiwala sa kabaitan ng Diyos.

When we speak of prayerfulness, we speak of trust. That’s the genuine way to pray. That’s how James—and Br. Elmer—showed their trust in Jesus.

Courageous

The second quality of James is courage.

Because James prayed fervently, he was ready to gulp down whatever was inside the cup of Jesus. His willingness to drink the cup which Jesus drank from was not just a mere issue of hygiene, trust or closeness.  It meant something else. It meant that he was ready to share in the destiny of Jesus.

And his courage to drink the same cup was such a real expression of his willingness to be with Jesus no matter what. He didn’t know what’s inside the cup. But when Christ had asked him if he could drink from the same cup he would drink from, he didn’t think twice. He immediately said yes. And when his Master Jesus was crucified, he must have an inkling that he would suffer the same fate.

Last year, I know of one of our teachers who braved the traffic and the distance just to drive to Don Bosco Batulao to visit his students who were having their retreat even if he was not given such a task. As the Christian Living teacher of the whole grade 10, he must have felt that he had to do it.

And as he drove to Batulao, he would tag along the respective advisers of the students. He covered all seven sections of them.

Last month, some of our lay mission partners were recognized for their perfect attendance. After the assembly, I asked him why he did not get the award. He reminded me, that at some point, he had to leave Makati for Batulao so that he could catch his students, effectively disqualifying himself from being considered for the award.

If James is dauntless in the face of death, Sir Alfie Rogel is courageous enough to spend some more on gas and toll, sacrifice the time which he could have devoted to his family and work and forego the possibility of receiving any recognition and cash reward given to our lay mission partners who register perfect attendance—solely for the reason to be with his students.

Humble

 The last quality of James is humility.

James showed us how the Kingdom of Heaven is far different from our world. That it is not given to the powerful, rich or those who are in control, but to a lowly fisherman who would be willing to humble himself, follow the instructions of the Lord, and serve others.

With his readiness to drink the chalice of Jesus, James gave his yes to the Lord whatever might come, as long as he was in His company.
But in the crucifixion scene, we learnt that out of the 12 apostles, only one stayed with Jesus at the cross—John! James also fled along with the rest. Hence, he failed.

However, James showed his love for Jesus by offering his life for Him. In the Acts of the Apostles, we read the account of His death, making him the first apostle who offered his life on account of his being a follower of Christ.

Ang pagpapakumbaba ay ang pagkilala na sa harap ng Diyos, ang talino natin, ang ating kakayahan—maging ang ating buhay—ay galing sa Kanya. At magkakaroon ito ng higit na kahulugan kung ipagkakaloob natin sa Kanya.

The apostles were imperfect men. Matthew was a public sinner. Thomas doubted that Jesus really was alive. Peter, the head of the apostles, denied Jesus three times. But because they were humble enough to recognize this, Jesus made wonders in their lives.

Today, we celebrate the feast of James. He is an apostle. An apostle is someone who is sent. As me reflect on these qualities, we also remember that we, too, are sent.

We are sent to live the Gospel, to embody Christ, to become a witness to the Kingdom that is to come.

Perhaps, Jesus is not asking us to follow the footsteps of James to offer our lives for His sake.

Perhaps, Jesus is asking us to just spend some more time in being with Him in prayer.

Perhaps, Jesus is asking us to just stand by Him, by choosing the right thing, even if it is not the easiest.

Perhaps, Jesus is asking us just to be humble in forgiving those individuals who have caused us so much pain.

The greatest form of devotion is by imitation.

Let us be like this apostle in his prayerfulness, in his courage, and in his humility.

Let us ask Jesus for such grace.

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