Today we celebrate the feasts of Saints Philip and James, two of Jesus’ twelve apostles. Normally a saint’s feast day is celebrated on the day of their death, but it differs for these saints. We celebrate their feast on the anniversary of the dedication of the sixth century Roman church bearing their names (now called the Church of the Twelve Apostles).
The James of this day is not the author of the epistle bearing his name, but rather James, son of Alpheus, also known as “James the Lesser.” Scripture tells us little about James, mentioning him only specifically in context with the other apostles or with his mother, “Mary mother of James” (Lk 24:10, Mk 16:1). The most important thing we know for certain is that he responded to the call of Jesus as one of the twelve “to make disciples of every nation.” (Mt 28:19)
Scripture tells us a bit more about Philip. Hailing from Bethsaida in Galilee, the same town as Andrew and Peter, Jesus directly called Philip, “The next day he decided to go to Galilee, and he found Philip. And Jesus said to him, ‘Follow me.'” (Jn 1:43)
Indeed Philip did follow Jesus and started making disciples right away, “Philip found Nathanael and told him, ‘We have found the one about whom Moses wrote in the law, and also the prophets, Jesus, son of Joseph, from Nazareth.’” (Jn 1:45)
Philip provides Jesus with the necessary opportunity to reveal His unity with the Father in the gospel of John:
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, then you will also know my Father. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” Philip said to him, “Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip? 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 speak to you I do not speak on my own. The Father who dwells in me is doing his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else, believe because of the works themselves. Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father. (Jn 14:6-12)
Philip’s innocent question is foundational to belief in the Trinity, a doctrine which took hundreds of years to develop. In our time we take for it for granted; in Jesus’ time it was unheard of and blasphemous.
I find it fitting that we celebrate these saints during Easter season. Like them, we are called to follow Jesus. Like them, we are called to make disciples. Like them, we are called to be His witnesses (Acts 1:8).
So today, let us imitage our older brothers in the faith and look for opportunities to show the world the Father through the Son in all that we think, say, and do.
Alleluia! He is Risen! Anne