Today as a church and as Christians we celebrate the double feast of the Apostles St. Philip and St. James.
Philip was born in Bethsaida, Galilee. He may have been a disciple of John the Baptist and is mentioned as one of the Apostles in the lists of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and in Acts. Aside from the lists, he is mentioned only in John in the New Testament. He was called by Jesus Himself and brought Nathanael to Christ. Philip was present at the miracle of the loaves and fishes, when he engaged in a brief dialogue with the Lord, and was the Apostle approached by the Hellenistic Jews from Bethsaida to introduce them to Jesus. Just before the Passion, Jesus answered Philip’s query to show them the Father, but no further mention of Philip is made in the New Testament beyond his listing among the Apostles awaiting the Holy Spirit in the Upper Room. According to tradition he preached in Greece and was crucified upside down at Hierapolis under Emperor Domitian.
St. James the Less, the author of the first Catholic Epistle, was the son of Alphaeus of Cleophas. His mother Mary was either a sister or a close relative of the Blessed Virgin, and for that reason, according to Jewish custom, he was sometimes called the brother of the Lord. The Apostle held a distinguished position in the early Christian community of Jerusalem. St. Paul tells us he was a witness of the Resurrection of Christ; he is also a “pillar” of the Church, whom St. Paul consulted about the Gospel.
According to tradition, he was the first Bishop of Jerusalem, and was at the Council of Jerusalem about the year 50. The historians Eusebius and Hegesippus relayed that St. James was martyred for the Faith by the Jews in the Spring of the year 62, although they greatly esteemed his person and had given him the surname of “James the Just.”
Tradition has always recognised him as the author of the Epistle that bears his name. Internal evidence based on the language, style, and teaching of the Epistle reveals its author as a Jew familiar with the Old Testament, and a Christian thoroughly grounded in the teachings of the Gospel. External evidence from the early Fathers and Councils of the Church confirmed its authenticity and canonicity. The date of its writing cannot be determined exactly. According to some scholars it was written about the year 49 A.D. Others, however, claim it was written after St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans (composed during the winter of 57-58 A.D.). It was probably written between the years 60 and 62 A.D.
St. James addresses himself to the “twelve tribes that are in the Dispersion,” that is, to Christians outside Palestine; but nothing in the Epistle indicates that he is thinking only of Jewish Christians. St. James realises full well the temptations and difficulties they encounter in the midst of paganism, and as a spiritual father, he endeavours to guide zero direct them in the faith. Therefore, the burden of his discourse is an exhortation to practical Christian living.
Both St. Philip and St. James have their joint feast day on May 3rd.
Let us pray:
As we remember the apostles Philip and James we are reminded that God calls us all and sends us out into the world to be his hands and his feet. We thank you Jesus for the tasks you have entrusted to us. Help us each day to become more aware of our calling to serve you.
Lord in your mercy – hear our prayer
We pray for the needs of the world, remembering particularly those parts of the world where people live in daily fear of violence and oppression. We call to mind those parts of the world particularly on our hearts today.
Lord in your mercy – hear our prayer
We remember that Philip opened the scriptures to the Ethiopian eunuch helping to bring him to Christ. Let us also bring others to the full knowledge and love of Christ.