"The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve" (Matt 20:28).
We should be grateful for the audacity of the "Sons of Thunder" and their mother for pressing the issue of greatness among the disciples of Jesus. His response to the attempt by James and John to jockey themselves into privileged status occasioned Jesus' clear instruction to all his disciples on the nature of leadership through service: "You know that worldly leaders lord it over others and their great ones make their authority over others felt. But it shall not be so among you."
As we witness the two national conventions in the race for the U.S. presidency, we have a chance to compare many approaches to the pursuit of public office. As we listen to speeches and compare records, we must discern the extent to which any candidate is in it for themselves or for public service. We, as electors and voters, must decide which contender is more likely to use power to promote the common good, advance the welfare of all citizens, especially minority groups and the more vulnerable members of society.
St. James the Apostle had the instincts of a self-serving politician when he and his brother tried to maneuver themselves into positions of power. But he hardly understood what he was saying when he asked for a special portion of the fate of Jesus, who was already determined to go to Jerusalem to lay down his life for others. James would need the same audacity to engage the challenges ahead as a witness to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. He would indeed drink the cup that Jesus drank, and so we honor him today on his feast.
Jesus has given us the measure by which to examine the motives and performance of all our leaders, whether they are candidates for office or bishops and pastors. Those who serve and are willing to sacrifice their own interests for others are the ones worthy of our support.