July 25, 2013


Readings at Mass: Feast of Saint James, Apostle

> 2nd Corinthians 4:7-15
> Psalm 126: 1-2a,2b-3,4-5,6

Today we celebrate the Feast day of one of the Apostles ― Saint James. There were two Apostles named James: one was called James "the Greater" and one was called James "the Less" ... believe it or not they received these nicknames probably because today's James was taller than the other James (nothing mysteriously fancy there, eh?) We know nothing of Saint James' early life. He was the brother of John, the beloved disciple, and probably the oldest of the two. His father was Zebedee, a fisherman, and his mother was Salome, one of the women who followed Jesus.

The Scriptures tell us much of Saint James. He and his brother John, the beloved disciple who wrote the Gospel of John, had a special relationship with Jesus. Peter, James, and John saw things the other Apostles didn't: the raising of Jairus' daughter (Mark, 5:37), the Transfiguration (Luke, 9:28), and the Agony in Garden (Matthew 26:37). But, perhaps most interesting was James' strength of personality. In Mark 3:7 James is referred to as a "son of thunder". He was born in Galilee, in northern Israel, a fishing village renowned for men of passionate personalities, benevolent generosity, and fierce anger. James had a similar personality to Saint Peter, for they were born in the same town, grew up together, and were both brash fisherman.

James had a bold personality ... to say the least. When a small Samaritan town rejected Jesus' message, James' passion led him beg Jesus to "reign down fire" and annihilate the village. (Luke 9:51-56) On the other hand, James' own mother begs Jesus to grant that her own sons "sit, one at your right and the other at your left, in your Kingdom". (Matthew 20:21) Yea ... that's pretty bold.

Funny thing about Jesus ... He sure did intentionally surround Himself with interesting people. Peter, James, and John had a privileged place within the deepest of inner circles, the Apostles. While John was more mild mannered and humble, Peter and James had lots of fire in them.

Most of think that once we follow Jesus we'll be fixed. After all we read stories of Jesus exorcizing demons, giving sight to the blind, and raising the dead. We read accounts of the prodigal son coming home after a life of sin. There's the Samaritan woman telling everyone about this man that knew her sins. We even celebrated Mary Magdalene's conversion on Monday. Through it all, we erroneously deduce that we, if we are going to follow Jesus, must become neutered of all personality deficiencies. Especially when we desire healing of our deepest wounds, we assume that once we are healed we'll be fixed ... we'll thus have those personality traits that are meek, mild, and ... boring.

Listen to me: Jesus doesn't want to fix you. Jesus yearns for our healing, not our fixing. To be healed is to have all aspects of our life in relationship with Christ. To be healed is to have every aspect of our heart filled with light: the pain is filled with love, the isolation filled with communion, the fear and shame filled with relationship. That's healing ... and yes, Jesus does want that. However, once we are healed we'll still live in a fallen world. We'll still need a Savior. We'll still need to wake up everyday and beg for God's help like an addict wakes up every day and begs for sobriety.

Jesus surrounded himself with two men, Peter and James, who had fiery personalities. However, because of relationship with Christ their passion formerly expressed in anger was eventually expressed in zeal for the Gospel. Jesus didn't want to fix their passion, he wanted heal their hearts and channel their anger into zeal for the Truth of Christ. Jesus didn't want to fix their passion, he wanted heal the root of their anger and heal their hearts so as to channel their passion into zeal for the Truth of Christ. Jesus didn't want to fix their strength, he wanted heal the root of their wanting to be in control and heal their hearts so as to channel their desire for control into thirst-filled dependency for Christ.

You and I will always have our "stuff" ... we'll have our personality quirks and the many other things we may not like about ourselves. However, when our hearts are in communion with Christ, our grasping at sin will decrease because the former energy propelling us toward sin is now directed toward God.

Stop trying to force God to fix you. Instead, let God into your heart. Draw close to Him. Bring everything into relationship with Him. The same energy that propelled the greatest sinners toward sin is the same energy that propelled those former sinners into saints. Direct your energy to Jesus and He won't fix you ... He'll do better than that ... He will transform you.

© Fr. Mark Toups, 2013


Today, the 169 seminarians continue their course on the Liturgy. Today the men will learn more about how Liturgy connects to the moral life. The 22 priests and seminarians here for the Spiritual Exercises are on day 27 of the 30-day retreat.


"The Lord has a plan for each of us, he calls us each by name. Our task is to learn how to listen, to perceive his call, to be courageous and faithful in following him, and when all is said and done, to be found trustworthy servants who have used well the gifts given us."
― Homily at Vespers, Basilica of Saint Anne, September 26, 2006