Feast of Saints Philip and James

Feast of Saints Philip and James

Philip: Philip came from the same town as Peter and Andrew, Bethsaida in Galilee.  In the first chapter of John’s gospel we see Jesus calling him directly. After his calling he immediately began to lead others to Christ.

His character comes across in two incidents in the Gospel, one of which is described in the Gospel reading. After his own calling he went looking for his friend Nathanael and told him about the “one about whom Moses wrote” (John 1:43-45).  Philip comes across as someone who is rather innocent and naïve and it takes him some time to acknowledge what is going on.

Like the other apostles, Philip took a long time coming to realize who Jesus was. On one occasion, when Jesus saw the great multitude following him and wanted to give them food, 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 [bit]” (Jn 6:7).

John’s story is not a put-down of Philip. It was simply necessary for these men who were to be the foundation stones of the Church to see the clear distinction between humanity’s total helplessness apart from God and the human ability to be a bearer of divine power by God’s gift.

On another occasion, we can almost hear the exasperation in Jesus’s voice. After Thomas had complained that they did not know where Jesus was going, Jesus said, “I am the way … If you know me, then you will also know my Father. From now on you do know him and have seen him” (Jn 14:6a, 7). Then Philip said, “Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us” (Jn 14:8). Enough! Jesus answered, “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” (Jn 14:9a).

 Because Philip’s name was Greek (Philippos, Filippos, literally, ‘lover of horses’), we are told that one day two ‘Greeks’, probably converts to Judaism, approached him and his companion, Andrew (Andreos, ’Andreos, also a Greek name, meaning ‘manly’), and said they wanted to “see Jesus”.  Jesus is in Jerusalem and it is on the eve of his Passion.  When told about this request, Jesus replied enigmatically with the image of the seed having to fall into the ground and die before it gave fruit.  Clearly, it was a way of telling these men that ‘seeing’ Jesus was much more than seeing his exterior; they would also have to grasp the inner meaning of his sacrificial death as an essential part of his identity.

James the Less whose feast we also celebrate today is known as the ‘son of Alphaeus’ and  is called “Less” because he was younger than the other Apostle by the same name, James the Great ( the son of Zebedee).  He is not to be confused with James found in the Acts, son of Clopas in the Acts of the Apostles, who was a “brother” (cousin) of Jesus, later ‘bishop’ of Jerusalem and the traditional author of the Letter of James. We know little of the life of this apostle.

Compiled from various sources

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