03 May, 2019. Sts Philip and James, Apostles
Saints Philip and James, apostles
1st Reading: 1 Corinthians 15:1-8
Paul lists the original witnesses of the resurrection, including himself
May I 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 נunless 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.
Resp. Psalm: Ps 19
R.: Their message goes out through all the earth
The heavens declare the glory of God;
and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.
Day pours out the word to day;
and night to night imparts knowledge. (R./)
Not a word nor a discourse
whose voice is not heard;
Through all the earth their voice resounds,
and to the ends of the world, their message. (R./)
Gospel: John 14:6-14
Jesus tells Philip, “I am in the Father and the Father is in me.”
Jesus said to Thomas, “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.
It is interesting to compare the personalities of the apostles, as shown in the Gospels and the Acts. Seeing Saint James chairing the first church Council in Jerusalem surprises many people, who think mainly of Peter as leading the church after Christ. Yes of course, Peter did take the initiative of declaring the Gospel at Pentecost and then went about spreading the message in various places, including Antioch and Rome. By contrast, James of Jerusalem (not the son of Zebedee and brother of John) is rarely mentioned in the Gospels, and wasn’t among the first circle of disciples. But by the year 49 a.D. we find this James actually presiding over the Apostolic Council (Acts 15).
When James spoke, people listened, and his views carried weight. He was a man of great dignity whom the early church nicknamed “James the Just.” Such was his prestige that when Peter set off on apostolic mission abroad, James was elected leader of the local Christians in Jerusalem. According to church historian Eusebius, James was a Nazirite, who from birth never drank alcohol nor ate meat, dressed simply and never married, but dedicated himself to prayer and study. Perhaps it was and for reasons like this that James enjoyed precedence among his peers. We might think of him as an ascetical bishop, austere, but reliable in times of crisis.
Philip has a higher profile in the Gospel, although he hardly features in the Acts. He is listed alongside Bartholomew among the Twelve in each of the Synoptic Gospels, but it is St John who provides some specific, sympathetic stories about Philip. He was among the first disciples to be “found” by Jesus and to hear the call, “Follow me”. Philip in turn “finds” his friend Nathanael (or Bartholomew) and commends Jesus to him as “the one about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote.” He even repeats to his friend the words used by Jesus to invite new disciples, “Come and see!” (Jn 1:46).
We may regard Philip as person-centred, a man disposed to sharing what he has found; one to spread God’s blessings in a generous way. Later Christian tradition has him preaching in Greece, Syria, and Phrygia. One of the Gnostic texts found in the Nag Hammadi library in Egypt (1945) has been called “The Gospel of Philip,” simply because Philip is the only apostle to be mentioned in the text (73:8).
Reflecting on those early Christian stalwarts helps us to assess the qualities and contributions of recent church leaders, including the last seven popes, from Pius XII to Francis I. While each in turn held pastoral responsibility (or “universal jurisdiction” as some prefer) over the world-wide church, none of them had a monopoly of wisdom and authority, so as to block future discussion of alternative visions of how to lead the church. It’s a thought to help us relativise our notion of infallibility and promote ongoing dialogue, while cherishing our unity within the church of Jesus.
Let us see the Father
When Philip says to Jesus, “Lord, let us see the Father and we shall be satisfied,” we can nod in agreement. Like him, perhaps we too sense that we will really only be satisfied when we see God directly, in the next life. Yet Jesus tells Philip that the God whom he longs to see is already near at hand. “To have seen me is to have seen the Father.” He has already begun to satisfy our deepest longings, our longing for God the Father .
Jesus has shown us the face of God in his own person, through his life, death and resurrection. As we grow in our relationship with Jesus we will already begin to see the face of God. The heaven we long for is already dawning, to some extent. Jesus assures Philip that we have already been given a great deal. We need to appreciate what we have received, to experience God’s presence in the person of Jesus who is with us always until the end of time. He is with us in his word, in the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist, and in each other.