To Tell of the Glory of God- Reflection for Mass of May 3, 2010- Feast of Sts. Philip and James

3 May

Monday, May 3, 2010
Feast of St. Philip and St. James, Apostles
Readings: 1 Corinthians 15:1-8; Psalm 19:2-5; John 14:6-14

While I was in the novitiate in Windsor, it became a running joke that one Basilian confrere, when I would enter the house, would ask in jest, “What good can come out of Alberta?” In remembrance of Philip’s words to Nathaniel in the opening chapter of John’s Gospel, I would reply, “Come and see!”[1] Of course, Philip had just been chosen as an Apostle by Jesus of Nazareth; he had not been speaking with a mere novice.

Very early in his Gospel, John thus gives us a glimpse of the joy and exuberant zeal of Philip the Apostle. His exhortation to Nathaniel, though, was only the beginning of Philip’s arduous journey of discipleship. Philip, like most of us, met God in the ordinary events of life, and, like us, he struggled to understand that he was indeed encountering God in these instances.

Philip had gone to Nathaniel to tell him about Jesus before Jesus had performed any miracle, at least according to the Gospel of John.[2] For Philip, this was a great act of faith. Philip, though, would later fail to recognize Jesus’ power to feed the multitudes from five loaves and two fish.[3] Then again, Philip was the Apostle, John writes, who led the Greeks, who wanted “to see Jesus,”[4] to the Lord. Philip would have made an excellent vocation director!

In today’s Gospel reading, we again see Philip’s incomprehension, and this came after Jesus had performed many signs. Philip’s request: “Show us the Father,”[5] draws a sharp rebuke from Jesus, who tells Philip that He and the Father are co-existent.[6] He and the Father work together in everyday nondescript events to sustain us and indeed all creation. Jesus, through, with, and in the Father and the Spirit, is “the way, the truth, and the life.”[7]

However, Jesus does not simply leave Philip’s request to see the Father unfulfilled. I find the last statement by Jesus in this Gospel, a response to Philip’s prayer, and ours, to see God, to be especially comforting: “If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.”[8]

Jesus will answer our prayer, even if at times we must be patient and even be content with a lack of understanding of God’s ways. That is the example of James, of whom Paul writes to the Corinthians. In Paul’s time, James was the great pastor of the fledgling Church of Jerusalem. I envisage James, who would die as a martyr,[9] as the patient leader who built community- a Church- of Jews and Gentiles alike. James, “brother of the Lord,”[10] was the first of the Twelve, says Paul, to have seen the Risen Christ.[11] It was thus James’ special responsibility to proclaim that risen Christ to Jerusalem and to the world.

James’ mission of proclamation of the Gospel and as a “brother of the Lord” must continue. James’ mission is ours also, so that as the Psalmist says, God’s “handiwork”[12] will be made known. Let us, with the Apostles Philip and James, let our voice ring out “through all the earth” and “to the end of the world,”[13] and may our works of charity tell of “the glory of God.”[14] Sts. Philip and James, pray for us.


[1] John 1:46

[2] The Wedding at Cana, the first of Jesus’ seven ‘signs’ recorded in John, occurs from John 2:1-12.

[3] John 6:5-7

[4] John 12:21

[5] John 14:8

[6] John 14:9-11

[7] John 14:6

[8] John 14:14

[9] Acts 12:2

[10] Galatians 1:19

[11] 1 Corinthians 15:7

[12] Psalm 19:2

[13] Psalm 19:5

[14] Psalm 19:2


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