Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Feast of Saints Philip and James, Apostles

(I Corinthians 15:1-8; John 14:6-14)

The fact that little is known about most of the apostles hints that they did not follow Jesus to become famous.   The New Testament portrays Peter with depth and refers to James and John in a number of situations.  We also have a feeling for Thomas, but in a negative way -- because of his protestations about belief in the resurrection.  Of course, we associate Judas with the foulest of characters that we have ever known or heard of.  But it is hard to get a sense of what the other apostles are like.

Saints Philip and James are not exceptions to this scarcity of knowledge.  Besides appearance on the lists of apostles, Philip emerges at the beginning of John’s gospel and again toward the end in the passage read in today’s mass.  In chapter one he seems to be on a noble search for the Messiah.  But by chapter 14 he appears to have missed the point of his quest by failing to recognize Jesus as the image of the Father.  In both cases he is given less description than the deacon Philip in the Acts of the Apostles who boldly preaches the gospel.  It is unlikely that this James is “the brother of the Lord” whom the Acts of the Apostles treats as co-leader of the Jerusalem community along with Peter.  He is named on New Testament lists as “son of Alphaeus,” but who is Alphaeus?  A strand of tradition refers to him as “James the Less” which at least removes any pretension from his identity. 

The anonymity of the apostles is instructive for us.  Like them we should not follow Jesus for earthly glory.  Rather we should let go of our desire for notariety in order to serve God.  By praising His name and caring for His people we will receive a much more cherished reward than fame or fortune.