Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Their Message Goes Out Through All The Earth.

Feast of Saint Philip and Saint James, Apostles
Reading I
1 Corinthians 15:1-8
I am reminding you, brothers and sisters,
of the Gospel I preached to you,
which you indeed received
and in which you also stand.
Through it you are also being saved,
if you hold fast to the word
I preached to you,
unless you believed in vain.
For I handed on to you as of first importance
what I also received:
that Christ died for our sins
in accordance with the Scriptures;
that he was buried;
that he was raised on the third day
in accordance with the Scriptures;
that he appeared to Cephas,
then to the Twelve.
After that, he appeared to more
than five hundred brothers and sisters at once,
most of whom are still living,
though some have fallen asleep.
After that he appeared to James,
then to all the Apostles.
Last of all, as to one born abnormally,
he appeared to me.
+++    +++    +++    +++
Psalm 19
R. Their message goes out through all the earth.
The heavens declare the glory of God;
and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.
Day pours out the word to day;
and night to night imparts knowledge.
R. Their message goes out through all the earth.
Not a word nor a discourse
whose voice is not heard;
Through all the earth their voice resounds,
and to the ends of the world, their message.
R. Their message goes out through all the earth.
+++     +++    +++    +++   
John 14:6-14
Jesus said to Thomas,
“I am the way and the truth and the life.
No one comes to the Father except through me.
If you know me, then you will also know my Father.
From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
Philip said to him,
“Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.”
Jesus said 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?
The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own.
The Father who dwells in me is doing his works.
Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me,
or else, believe because of the works themselves.
Amen, amen, I say to you,
whoever believes in me will do the works that I do,
and will do greater ones than these,
because I am going to the Father.
And whatever you ask in my name, I will do,
so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
If you ask anything of me in my name, I will do it.”
Sts. Philip and James

James, Son of Alphaeus: We know nothing of this man but his name, and of course the fact that Jesus chose him to be one of the 12 pillars of the New Israel, his Church. He is not the James of Acts, son of Clopas, “brother” of Jesus and later bishop of Jerusalem and the traditional author of the Letter of James. James, son of Alphaeus, is also known as James the Lesser to avoid confusing him with James the son of Zebedee, also an apostle and known as James the Greater.

Philip: Philip came from the same town as Peter and Andrew, Bethsaida in Galilee. Jesus called him directly, whereupon he sought out Nathanael and told him of the “one about whom Moses wrote” (John 1:45).

Like the other apostles, Philip took a long time coming to realize who Jesus was. On one occasion, when Jesus saw the great multitude following him and wanted to give them food, he asked Philip where they should buy bread for the people to eat. St. John comments, “[Jesus] said this to test him, because he himself knew what he was going to do” (John 6:6). Philip answered, “Two hundred days’ wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little [bit]” (John 6:7).

John’s story is not a put-down of Philip. It was simply necessary for these men who were to be the foundation stones of the Church to see the clear distinction between humanity’s total helplessness apart from God and the human ability to be a bearer of divine power by God’s gift.

On another occasion, we can almost hear the exasperation in Jesus’ voice. After Thomas had complained that they did not know where Jesus was going, Jesus said, “I am the way...If you know me, then you will also know my Father. From now on you do know him and have seen him” (John 14:6a, 7). Then Philip said, Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us” (John 14:8). Enough! Jesus answered, “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” (John 14:9a). 

Possibly because Philip bore a Greek name or because he was thought to be close to Jesus, some Gentile proselytes came to him and asked him to introduce them to Jesus. Philip went to Andrew, and Andrew went to Jesus. Jesus’ reply in John’s Gospel is indirect; Jesus says that now his “hour” has come, that in a short time he will give his life for Jew and Gentile alike.

As in the case of the other apostles, we see in James and Philip human men who became foundation stones of the Church, and we are reminded again that holiness and its consequent apostolate are entirely the gift of God, not a matter of human achieving. All power is God’s power, even the power of human freedom to accept his gifts. “You will be clothed with power from on high,” Jesus told Philip and the others. Their first commission had been to expel unclean spirits, heal diseases, announce the kingdom. They learned, gradually, that these externals were sacraments of an even greater miracle inside their persons—the divine power to love like God.

“He sent them...so that as sharers in his power they might make all peoples his disciples, sanctifying and governing them.... They were fully confirmed in this mission on the day of Pentecost (cf. Acts 2:1–26) in accordance with the Lord’s promise: ‘You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you shall be witnesses for me...even to the very ends of the earth’ (Acts 1:8). By everywhere preaching the gospel (cf. Mark 16:20), which was accepted by their hearers under the influence of the Holy Spirit, the apostles gathered together the universal Church, which the Lord established on the apostles and built upon blessed Peter, their chief, Christ Jesus himself remaining the supreme cornerstone...” (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, 19).

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Sarah in the tent said...

'Master, show us the Father'

This is a strange request, since Philip must know that no-one can see God and live. Yet there is no indication he is ready to die.

Philip himself bears the name of a famous father: Philip of Macedon, the father of Alexander the Great. Philip II laid the foundations of Alexander's achievements. Maybe Jesus is using Philip's own ideas about the fatherhood of Philip II and the sonship of Alexander the Great to help him understand the Trinity.

Were there any Alexanders around in Palestine under the Romans? I can't think of any. Maybe the name Alexander had become too politically sensitive, or even banned. Maybe Greeks resorted to using the name 'Philip' to invoke the hero 'Alexander'. In that case, he who has the Father also has the Son!

Fr. John L. Sullivan said...

Sarah, Philip's request, "Show us the Father, and that will be enough for us" follows Thomas' query: "Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?" that Jesus answers in the first verse of today's gospel: "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."

Truth told, Philip does not know that no-one can see God and live. Since the Resurrection of Jesus, Philip and the other disciples know that Jesus is God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God. But their is founded in faith, not in understanding. Understanding the fullness of the relationship between the Creator-God and his human creatures is beyond the capacity of our human minds. Only God knows God fully.

Philip's question has been repeated by every human person from the disciples of Jesus at the outset of the First Millenium of the Christian era to us who live at the outset of the Third.

As Paul of Tarsus, the first convert to the way of Jesus writes, in 2 Cor 7: «for we walk by faith, not by sight». Our faith is in the word of Jesus, passed on to us by the Apostles and Evangelists and by the Church through the last two thousand years. But it can never be explained fully to even the most intelligent and most faithful disciple because no-one alive in the flesh can see God face-to-face. God bless you, Sarah, for your faith, may it keep growing day by day, until you see the Father face-to-face. And, please offer the same prayer for me.

Sarah in the tent said...

Thank you for this lovely blessing, Father! I was just reading the Pope's address on the beatification of John Paul II, when he spoke so movingly about the beatitude of faith - blessed is she who believed.

I have come to think of faith as the gift of all gifts, because it gives life, love, hope and beauty. I only wish my faith could bear fruit for others (especially in my immediate family!!!).

I pray for you too.