WEDNESDAY, FOURTH WEEK OF EASTER
Feast of Apostles Philip and James
1 Cor 15: 1-8; Ps 19: 2-5; Jn 14: 6-14
LESSONS FROM THE APOSTLES
The Church today celebrates the feast of the apostles, Philip and James. It remembers them together, as their relics were interred together at the Church of the Holy Apostles in Rome. This feast invites us to reflect upon the person of Jesus Christ who is the way to the Father and an invisible face of the Father. Saints Philip and James help us to encounter this truth through their perfect obedience, mission and faithfulness to Jesus.
In the first reading, Saint Paul reminds the Corinthians that the Gospel he preached to them was a matter of life and death. Paul’s acceptance of the Gospel began through an unforgettable experience on the road to Damascus. He was on his way to that city armed with letters from the chief priests authorizing him to arrest the Christians there and send them bound to Jerusalem. Suddenly Paul himself was arrested by Christ and compelled to make a roundabout turn. He was commissioned by God Himself to be the apostle of the Gentiles. He repeated to them the details in which he was confirmed by a few other apostles, especially Peter and James. That is not the James whose feast we celebrate today.
Philip was one of the first disciples called by Jesus who immediately left everything and followed Him. This attitude of Philip presents his perfect obedience and missionary zeal. He was from the same town as Peter and Andrew, Bethsaida in Galilee. Jesus called him directly, he followed Jesus and as a missionary brought Nathaniel to Jesus and told him of the “one about whom Moses wrote” (Jn 1:45). When Nathaniel showed a kind of disbelief, it was Philip who invited him to “Come and See”.
On one occasion, when Jesus saw a large crowd following him and they were hungry. Jesus wanted to give them food, so he asked Philip where they should buy bread for the people to eat. Saint John comments, “[Jesus] said this to test him, because he himself knew what he was going to do” (Jn 6:6). Philip answered, ‘Two hundred days’ wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little (Jn 6:7). His response does not show his disobedience, nor lack of concern for the people, rather, it shows his dependency on Jesus, Lord you tell me, how shall we go about? It is to Philip that Jesus said: “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (Jn 14:9). Adam and Eve walked with the Lord and talked with the Lord which means they saw the face of God. Jewish tradition informs that seeing the face of God means having the beatific vision of the Lord. It is nothing but living in the presence of the Lord in heaven. Philip in a way desires this intimacy with Lord. There are many people who you see not only with your eyes but also with your ears. You see the Father in Jesus when you look at Jesus with your eyes, while your ears accept the words of Jesus: with the eyes of faith, the Gospel invites us to the Lord. Jesus points to Himself and says he is ‘the way, the truth and the life’. Only by going through Him we can go to the Father; only by knowing Him we can know the truth and only by having Him we can have life. Though this looks like a simple invitation deep within it is a mountainous task.
James whom we celebrate today is known by different names, James the Lesser as he was short in stature, James the Just because he was known for his holiness and James the brother of the Lord (a cousin of Jesus). However, there is little spoken in the gospels about him. According to one historian, James lived an ascetic life and prayed a lot kneeling. It is also said that because of his being just and holy, he was the first apostle to celebrate the Holy Eucharist in Jerusalem after the ascension of the Lord. He was Bishop of Jerusalem and presided at the Council of Jerusalem in 51 AD. James by his life witnessed Jesus and shed his blood for Christ and died as a martyr.
Saints James, Philip and Paul imitated Christ. It is through imitating Jesus we become Christ-like. Becoming Christ is not in his appearance but in his heart. The two martyrs invite us to embrace Jesus who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.
Response: Their sound goes forth through all the earth.
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