Grace to you!
Two friends were recruited for the USA Marine Corps. Just like any other elite military corps in the world, the Marines pride themselves as the most rigorous, the toughest to graduate, and rightly so. Twelve weeks of intensive training culminating in the Crucible, equip candidates for the tough job.
Admission into the elite training is itself an indicator of exceptional skills and strength. It suggests one has the potential it takes to stand out. Evidence show only a few succeed.
These two friends were the strongest, most resilient and positive-minded among their peers. But only one made it to the final list and graduated a Marine. The difference between the two lies in what makes for exceptionalism, for greatness. It’s like the difference between a star and a super-star.
Look back when you were a teen. You, probably, had many dreams; some realizable, others mere fantasy . About the realizable ones, you would observe some were met, others abandoned.
Sometimes, you have regrets for some of your dreams you could have achieved had you worked harder, been more determined and broken the boundaries of convenience through sacrifice.
Before I continue, a caveat: No need to dwell on the past. Let the lessons learned motivate you to look ahead. The future is still in our hands, ordered through the hands of providence.
One of the lessons is that the difference between what was accomplished and what wasn’t lies in determination, hard work and sacrifice plus grace.
In each of us is a great treasure, the hidden treasure of true greatness. Though we are ordinarily weak, yet what is in us is strong.
I love a biblical description from Saint Paul. He says, “We have this treasure in earthen vessels, to show that the transcendent power belongs to God and not to us” (2 Corinthians 4:7).
How to break loose this treasure for greatness is cooperation. Cooperation with God’s power, God’s grace capable of leading us to the finish line. We, ourselves, must keep resilient, determined and sacrificing to the end. In the words of Our Lord Jesus Christ, “We have to drink of the chalice of suffering” (Matthew 20:22).
This isn’t simply about who knows whom, because, no matter the connections we have, there are certain things we have to do for ourselves. The talking, the working, the sacrificing and the follow-up must be done by us.
There is a spiritual example of this. When Jesus spoke to James and John (and the mother) about the way to greatness, he said it lies in suffering. They already had the best connection namely, Jesus. Nonetheless, they must do for themselves what the crown of their relationship entails—carry the cross. Remember that famous quote from Saint Augustine; “…God can’t save you without you.”
If you expect somebody else to do all the sacrificing for you, then forget about greatness. It’s the hand roughened by the wood of the cross that is anointed with the aromatic oil of glory.
At the entrance of “Glory Place,” a sign is posted: Show me your hands, your marks and your pains. Those are the keys, the access code. As Jesus spoke to the doubting Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands…place it in my side” (John 20:27); meaning his wounds.
We glean from the two sons of Zebedee, James and John, the hard lesson from Jesus with a view of matching their zeal with reality. The feisty brothers must learn the rules. They realized that zealous spontaneity must be matched with consistent action, the apex of which is sacrifice.
No surprise the first person to lead the way to heaven among the Apostles was James. He, after all, received the crown of glory when he was martyred around 42 or 43 AD in the hands of Herod Agrippa. At least, he showed his wounds, he bore the mark of the Christ.
May the Lord Jesus Christ teach us how to reach the finish line as he taught Saint James. Amen.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[July 25, 2017, Feast of Saint James The Apostle: 2 Corinthians 4:7-15; Matthew 20:20-28]
Fr. Maurice Emelu
Father Maurice provides a daily blog of reflections based on the bible readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration and developing your own thoughts. It may also be helpful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.