Today is the feast of Saints Philip and James, Apostles.
During this time between Easter and Pentecost, we continue to see that the Apostles still were unsure of what was happening in their lives. At the Last Supper, Philip continues to pester Jesus about his ministry. “Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.” Of course, he lumps the others Apostles in to this plea, perhaps as a way of strengthening his argument. And we do know from other Gospel passages that they really were not sure of their ultimate mission.
But Jesus says 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?”
And let’s look at the first reading from Paul’s Epistle to the Corinthians. He gives them a version of the Creed, and then lists those to whom Jesus appeared after his death, ending with himself. He says, “I am reminding you…” It’s as if he is reciting known facts in order to strengthen his preaching as well as recapping a message, all the better to strengthen his audience’s understanding.
Similarly, in the Responsorial Psalm, there is a teaching from heaven to all the earth, declaring the glory of God.
For me, this day of Saints Philip and James is like the overture to an opera. Little pieces of the whole, presented as a warm-up to the opening of the curtain and the glorious theatrical production. And isn’t that also what this time between Easter and Pentecost is? Time and again, we are told that certain things happened with Jesus and the Apostles after the Resurrection, but it never really takes hold, the Apostles continue to have doubts and anxieties. We hear themes, we get snippets of the whole, we recognize the very beginnings of the church that Jesus is presenting.
We don’t know much about Philip…some stories in the Gospels, some traditions that he preached in Greece, Syria, and Phrygia, that he was martyred on a cross, upside down, and only recently, that his tomb may have been discovered in Turkey. We know that James, called James the Lesser, became the bishop of Jerusalem and wrote one of the epistles in the New Testament.
But we do know, and especially from today’s Gospel, that eventually all the Apostles and many of the disciples all went out into the world after Pentecost and did what Jesus said: “…whoever believes in me will do the works that I do…”
And we do know that we have thirty-two days before Pentecost. And we do know that during this time, we can gather as many of the tools that we can to do what James says in his epistle, that we may have faith, but we also must have good works.
And so, while we listen to the stories of the overture, we can use them all as review sessions for what we have been, as Christians, chosen to do: “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.”
Lord, help us in these days of Easter to prepare ourselves for your kingdom. Help us to ask of you the things that we need to complete your mission on earth. And help us to store up in heaven the riches of your word and your blessings. In Jesus’ name.