The Path to the Kingdom

“You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the chalice that I am going to drink?” They said to him, “We can.” He replied, “My chalice you will indeed drink, but to sit at my right and at my left, this is not mine to give but is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” 

Matthew 20:22–23

Saint James was the brother of the beloved disciple John and the son of Zebedee and Salome. Jesus called both James and John while they were working with their father, mending their fishing nets in their boat. Their response to Jesus’ call was immediate: “…they left their father Zebedee in the boat along with the hired men and followed him” (Mark 1:20). James was present at the raising of Jarius’ daughter, the Transfiguration, and is mentioned a few other times in the Gospels. In the Acts of the Apostles, James is identified as the first of the Apostles to give his life as a martyr, being beheaded by Herod in Jerusalem in the year 44 AD (See Acts 12:2).

  Among the other references to Saint James in the Gospels is the passage quoted above in which Salome, the mother of James and John, asks Jesus for the unique favor of allowing her two sons to sit at His left and right in His Kingdom. Upon her request on behalf of her two sons, Jesus turns to them and asks if they can drink the chalice that He is going to drink, to which they respond, “We can.” And though this is a bold request on their parts and that of their mother, there is also something courageous and holy about their request.  

Just prior to this passage, as Jesus journeyed to Jerusalem with the Twelve, He explained to them the fate that awaited Him. “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death, and hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and scourged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day” (Matthew 20:18–19). This was the third time that Jesus explained this to the Twelve and, therefore, it must have started to truly sink in. It is within this context that James and John ask to remain close to Jesus in His mission of establishing His Kingdom, even though Jesus explained that the path to that Kingdom was His suffering and death.

Each of us should learn from James and John. Though their request might have had some selfishness mixed in with it, it was also courageous. It showed they did not fear Jesus’ prediction of His passion. Instead, they wanted to be part of it and were willing to endure whatever was necessary so as to share in the glory of the Kingdom to come.  

Reflect, today, upon making a similar request to our Lord. Say to Him that you desire to be close to Him in His Kingdom, and do so with the full knowledge that the path to this glory is by drinking the chalice of selfless sacrifice that Christ drank. It is obtained by courageously following Him, no matter what that requires of you. If that means suffering and persecution, so be it. If that means great sacrifice, so be it. If that means abandoning certain hopes and dreams, so be it. See yourself walking with these disciples and Jesus on the road to Jerusalem where our Lord would offer His life in sacrifice. Saint James would soon follow, dying by the sword of Herod. Say “Yes” to whatever our Lord asks of you and commit yourself to the drinking of the chalice of selfless sacrificial love. Doing so will enable you to share in the glory of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Prayer. My glorious King, You invite all people to share in Your glorious Kingdom to come. May I enter that Kingdom with all the saints and fully share in its glory. I choose that path that leads to that Kingdom and willingly offer my life in sacrifice to You and for others. Jesus, I trust in You.