Saturday, May 3, 2008

FEAST OF SAINTS PHILIP AND JAMES, APOSTLES

”Philip and James” by Albrecht Durer, 1516


Readings and Commentary:[2]


I am reminding you, brothers and sisters,
of the Gospel I preached to you,
which you indeed received and in which you also stand.
Through it you are also being saved,
if you hold fast to the word I preached to you,
unless you believed in vain.
For I handed on 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;
that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve.
After that, he appeared to more
than five hundred brothers and sisters at once,
most of whom are still living,
though some have fallen asleep.
After that he appeared to James,
then to all the Apostles.
Last of all, as to one born abnormally,
he appeared to me.
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Commentary on 1 Cor 15:1-8

In this passage we find Paul addressing the flagging faith in the resurrection expressed by some of those in Corinth. He uses what is probably a creedal statement to express the official belief of the Church and then speaks of eye witness event surrounding Jesus’ resurrection.

Unfortunately there is no documentation in the Gospels for his reference to either Jesus’ appearance to James (nor do we know to which James he is referring) or to the 500 believers. He concludes in humility, reminding them that he also saw the Risen Lord, although in lesser circumstances (“Last of all, as to one born abnormally, he appeared to me.”).

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Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 19:2-3, 4-5

R. (5) Their message goes out through all the earth.
or:
R. Alleluia.

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. Their message goes out through all the earth.
or
R. Alleluia.

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. Their message goes out through all the earth.
or:
R. Alleluia.
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Commentary on Ps 19:2-3, 4-5

Psalm 19 is a hymn of praise to God for his creation. While to its original audience it sings the praise of God the creator, placed against the Feast of Philip and James, it speaks of the evangelical work of the Apostles, spreading God’s word throughout the world.

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Gospel: John 14:6-14

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, 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.
And whatever you ask in my name, I will do,
so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
If you ask anything of me in my name, I will do it.”
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Commentary on Jn 14:6-14

In this passage from St. John’s Gospel, part of the “Many Dwellings” discourse, we find a rare glimpse of the confusion in some of the disciples. Here St. Philip asks Jesus to show them the Father. This request is a platform for Jesus to once again remind them that He (Jesus) and the Father are one that they have seen him and they have seen the Father.

He concludes this passage with a clear statement about the power of faith in Him (Jesus), saying that whatever is asked for in his name will be granted. Note especially that Jesus says these prayers (requests) will be granted for the glory of the Father.

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Reflection:

As we rejoice this day for God’s gift of the Apostles through whom we have received the Good News of Jesus, we think about their lives and circumstances. Doing so gives us a renewed appreciation for just how incredible God’s plan is and how unknowable His ways.

Let us look first a Philip. He is an Apostle mentioned in all four Gospels. He was called, like Andrew, St. Peter’s brother, after following St. John the Baptist. Like many of those first disciples, he was not what one would expect to be chosen by the Son of God as one of those charged with the great mission. Scripture depicts a quiet (shy) and reserved person of deep faith. We only hear about him three times in scripture; first at his call when the Lord said to him simply “Follow me” and he obeyed. The next time is when Jesus fed the multitude (John 6:5-7) after that when some Greeks come and want to speak with Jesus (John 12:21-23) and finally we hear him in the Gospel we are given today. Think of it – this shy and unassuming man was chosen by God as one of the most important people in our faith history.

In St. James (the lesser) we are even more amazed. His call, along with his brother, Jude (distinguishing him from James (the greater) and John, Zebedee’s sons), is controversial because of something St. Paul said in Galatians (Galatians 1:19, 2:9, 2:12) where he is called “James the brother of the Lord”. Many Protestant scripture scholars point to this reference as proof that the Blessed Mother had children following the Lord. Catholic scholars maintain that this designation refers to a group “closely connected with the Savior” (see Brethren of the Lord). Little is known of St. James (the lesser) other than following the Lord’s death and resurrection, when most of the Apostles went on missionary journeys, he stayed in Jerusalem, becoming the first Bishop. It was he who led the early discussions about the nature of the call to Christ. In the end he followed the Savior in death as a martyr as did Philip.

Today we think about these ordinary, unexpected, men of faith. How they answered the call of Christ when no one knew him and many that did were violently opposed to him. They waked into this dangerous relationship and faithfully followed the Lord. We thank God today for his gift of their witness. Without it we would be lost indeed. We also take up their burden, the yoke of the Lord and move it forward with the help of the Holy Spirit, whose coming we anticipate.

Pax

[1] The pictures are ”Philip and James” by Albrecht Durer, 1516
[2] The readings are taken from the New American Bible with the exception of the Psalm and its response which were developed by the International Committee for English in Liturgy (ICEL). This re-publication is not authorized by USCCB and is for private use only.

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