03 May 2010

Saint Philip and Saint James

3 MAY 2010. Today the Church celebrates the Feast of Saint Philip and Saint James, two of the twelve Apostles of Chist, although likely the two least known of the Apsotles.

Saint Philip was one of the twelve that was called from the city of Bethsadia, the same town as Andrew and Peter. We also know that Saint Philip introduced Christ to Nathaniel (sometimes referred to as Bartholomew), saying in response to Nathaniel's derogatory question ("Can anything good come out of Nazareth?"): "Come and see." (Jn 1, 45-47) The Church and the intercessory prayer of Saint Philip today still calls us to come and see the Lord.

While all of the Gospels account for Philip among the Apostles, he is most noted in the Gospel of Saint John. There, his two most notable appearances seem to link the Greek speaking Jewish community. Indeed, Saint Philip introduces Jesus to that community (Jn 12, 20-36) and is an interlocutor of Christ at the Last Supper, giving Christ the opportunity to reveal Himself as the Son of God:
Philip said to him, "Lord, show us the Father and we shall be satisfied." Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you so long, ans yet you do not know me, Philip? He who 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 in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father in me; or else believe me for the sake of the works themselves.
(Jn 14, 8-11 RSV-CE)

Aside from the biblical accounts of Saint Philip, not much more is concretely known of him. Tradition's account of him as a husband and father of several children, including a married daughter, appears to be reputable. But, other accounts are not so reliable. In fact, even Philip's martyrdom is in dispute, with some accounts saying that he was crucified upside down, and other accounts saying he was beheaded.

Saint Philip, the Apostle

Saint James, on the other hand, is more widely know by the Epistle that bears his name, although not much more is known of him directly than Saint Philip. We do know that Saint James the apostle is the son of Alphaeus, but he is only mentioned in the Bible three times (Mk  15, 40; Mk 16, 1; and Mt 27, 56), each time in connection with his mother Mary. By these references, Saint James is known to tradition as James the Less, distinguishing him from James, the son of Zebedee, the brother of Saint John. Tradition tells that Saint James was martyred in Lower Egypt, being beaten to death there while preaching the Gospel.

Saint James, the Apostle

What can be said with certainty of Saints Philip and James is that Christ called them, as he calls all of us, to follow Him, and they did so in a unique way as Christ's apostles. To be called by Christ does not require notoriety nor fame nor even historical significance. And, none of of those characteristics are necessary either to be a faithful follower of Christ. Right where we are, each of us today can be a faithful disciple of Christ if we but rely on Him.

Saint Philip and Saint James, Holy Apostles, pray for us!

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