Saints Philip and James, Apostles – Readings

Commentaries on 1 Corinthians 15:1-8; Psalm 18; John 14:6-14

The Gospel reading features Philip’s final appearance in the Gospel account. It happens during the long account of the Last Supper from John, where Jesus speaks at length to his disciples. They must have been in somewhat of a confused state, knowing that the enemies of Jesus were practically outside the door waiting to destroy him. Even at this late date, there were still many parts of Jesus’ teaching that they did not understand.

Jesus, who is soon about to leave them, has just told them not to worry as he is preparing a place where they and he will be together. He tells them:

And you know the way to the place where I am going.
(John 14:4)

Thomas, the chronic grumbler, interjects:

Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way? (John 14:5)

Now picking up from today’s Gospel, Jesus gently replies:

I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Perhaps we should be grateful to the cranky Thomas for eliciting such a beautiful and meaningful answer from Jesus. He is not just a way; he is the Way. There is no other way to God except through him and with him – for the simple reason that he is the Word of God; he is God expressed through human nature. To be like Jesus, then, is to be like God through our humanity. This is something not just for believing Christians; it is simply the Way for every human being who wants to live a truly meaningful life.

Jesus then spells out the meaning of what he has just said:

If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.

But this is a bit too much for Philip who asks:

Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.

One can almost hear the sigh in Jesus’ voice as he replies:

Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?

Jesus’ reply is simply another way of saying that he is the Way. To know the inner meaning of Jesus’ life and to make it one’s own is to know the Father because Jesus is the em-bodi-ment, the incarnation of the Father in human form. Again, we are grateful to Philip for his question.

And that is the last appearance of Philip in the Gospel. Nor does James, son of Alphaeus, appear again.

However, the example of these two men among the twelve foundation stones on which Jesus’ work would be built and grow should be a lesson to us as to how God can carry out his plans with what seem rather inferior materials. By everywhere preaching the Gospel (see Mark 16:20), the Apostles sowed the seed of what would be a worldwide community against which the “gates of hell” would not prevail. It is a message to each one of us that, no matter what our gifts or lack of them, we are called to show others the Way that is Truth and Life.

Paul, too, who did so much to plant the Gospel in so many places, was all too aware of his own weaknesses and even prayed to be rid of them. He tells us his many prayers were answered by his becoming aware:

I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ, for whenever I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Cor 12:10)

In the First Reading from the First Letter to the Corinthians, Paul speaks of his calling to be an Apostle. He wants the Christians of Corinth to be mindful of the message he preached to them and on which their Christian faith stands. It is a faith which will bring them salvation and life unending. Paul emphasises strongly that it was not his own message he was preaching, but what he received from Jesus Christ, the Word of God.

The essence of that message was that Christ died for our sinfulness, that he was buried and raised three days later and finally that, after his resurrection, he appeared to Peter and all the Apostles. He then appeared to 500 disciples, some of whom had already died, and then to James (whose feast we are celebrating today) and all the rest of the Apostles. Finally, says Paul, he appeared to Paul himself, as to one born unexpectedly. After all, Paul had been a fierce persecutor of the followers of Christ and the last person one expected to be an Apostle.

It is thanks to all of these people that the message of Christ and his Gospel has reached us, and it reminds us that we, too, have the same obligation to pass on the Good News of Christ to others if they are to share the privileged experience we have had.

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