03May 3 May (Friday). Feast of Saints Philip and James, Apostles

1 Cor 15:1ff. Paul lists the original witnesses of the resurrection, including himself.

Jn 14:6ff: Jesus tells Philip, “I am in the Father and the Father is in me.”

First Reading: 1 Corinthians 15:1-

Now I would remind you, brethren, in what terms I preached to you the gospel, which you received, in which you stand,   by which you are saved, if you hold it fast – unless you believed in vain.

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures,   that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures,   and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.   Then he appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.   Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.   Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.   For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.    But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God which is with me.    Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.

Gospel: John 14:6-14

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves.

Truly I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.

Two Kinds of Church Leader

In an online homily of this feast, Fr. Daniel Trout writes glowingly about St. James: “Spiritually-speaking, what does it take for a man to be perfect? In his character, what does he have to be, and in his actions, what does he have to do to be complete? What does such a man look like that he so utterly reflects Christ? Well, this morning, on this feast of Saints Philip and James, we explore this important question. And, I think we’ll find the answer in a man who presents our Lord in all His integrity and virtues… What was it like after Jesus left, and who initially emerged with qualities and the reputation (who had the right stuff), to rule the Church in the early years? As Christians, such a man just might be worth imitating.”

Seeing St. James in charge is surprising because we usually think of St. Peter as leading the Church after Christ. Peter preached so famously at Pentecost and then spread the church in various places, including Rome. By contrast, James is rarely mentioned in the Gospels, and isn’t part of the inner circle. But we find in Acts 15 that it’s actually this James presiding over the Apostolic Council. When he spoke, people listened, and his decisions were carried out. We wonder why? What have we missed? Well, St. James had another name in the early Church: “James the Just.” What did he do to earn that name? In some ways, he was a head above the rest, not necessarily the oldest, but the others considered James to be so holy that he assumed the rule of the Church in Jerusalem.

According to the Church historian Eusebius, James was born into this commitment to perfection. He writes that James was a Nazarite, meaning that from birth he never drank alcohol nor ate meat, never dressed richly nor even married, but dedicated himself to prayer and study. Therefore James enjoyed such precedece among his peers.

Saint Philip has a somewhat higher profile in the Gospel, even though he hardly features in the Acts of the Apostles. He is listed along with Bartholomew among the Twelve, in each of the Synoptic Gospels, but it is the fourth Evangelist, John, who gives us some specific, sympathetic  stories about Philip. He was mong the first disciples to be “found” by Jesus and to hear the call, “Follow me”. Philip in his turn “finds” Nathanael (or Bartholomew) and commends Jesus to his friend  as “the one about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote” – and then then repeats to his friend the same words used by Jesus to invite people into his company, “Come and see!” (Jn 1:46)

Philip clearly stayed close to Jesus, for on the occasion when our Lord noticed how his large audience had brought nothing with them to eat, it was to Philip he directed the practical question “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?” (Jn 6:5). Philip replied pragmatically that “Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” He was sympathetic to the problem but could see no practical solution. The same open-hearted approach is evident when a group of foreigners attending a festival in Jerusalem wanted an interview with Jesus: it was to Andrew and Philip that they brought their request, which they in turn brought to Jesus (Jn 12:22). It’s not so surprising then to find during the Last Supper that it is Philip who makes the request that must have been in the hearts of them all, when Jesus was talking about going away, back to the Father, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” This elicits the richly encouraging reply from Jesus, that “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father… Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me.”

What might we learn from the comparative portrayals of these two Apostles today? Perhaps it says something to us about the variety of leadership styles, all of which have a contribution to make to the life and growth of the Church.


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