HOMILY FOR THE FEAST OF SAINTS PHILIP AND JAMES
HOMILY THEME: PHILIP AND JAMES; BACKGROUND PLAYERS IN JESUS’ TEAM.
BY: Fr. Evaristus Abu
“Jesus said to him, ‘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’?’”
When you watch a football match, there are actually some players you never get to notice, whose names are either not mentioned often or mentioned for the wrong reasons; yet without them, without the great work they do quietly the team is not complete. This analogy perfectly describes the two Apostles we celebrate today.
Philip and James were among the twelve chosen by Jesus after he had spent a whole night in prayer. (Read Luke 6:12). Even through Philip and James were among the twelve, they were not among the special three (Peter, James and John; two Sons of Zebedee). The James we are referring to here is described by Luke as James the Son of Alphaeus. Not one word from this James is recorded in the four Gospels.
St. Paul in his letter to Corinthians from where our first reading today comes from mentions James as the last of the Apostles whom Jesus appeared to. St. Paul seems to suggest that Jesus’ apparitions followed a hierarchical order in order of importance. If this is to go by, then St. Mary Magdelene deserves the title of “Apostle to the Apostles” while James should be called “bench warmer” and St. Paul as he calls himself is the “attachie.” (the adopted child so to say).
Coming down to Philip, a lot is said about him both in the positive and negative light. In Acts of the Apostles, chapter 8, we can read of Philip’s great exploits. In fact, he was the one who was inspired by the Holy Spirit to minister to the Ethiopian Eunuch and after the Eunuch was baptised, Philip was given the gift of bilocation; appearing and disappearing. Only very few persons in human history have had such a wonderful gift. Today’s men/women of God try to replicate this special gift however, with private jets!
In today’s Gospel passage, Philip was actually scolded by Jesus Christ for asking a question that clearly highlighted his poor theology. Up on till that time, Philip could not look beyond the humanity of Jesus, he didn’t realize that God the Father and Jesus are one same God. Later on, even some church theologians (heretics) would find themselves falling into this error or Philip regarding the identity of Jesus.
For Philip to have displayed his ignorance and then be scolded by Jesus, it teaches us that:
One, God does not call perfect persons. Growth in knowledge of God and understanding of Christ is not automatic. We learn every day.
Two, spending time with a person doesn’t always translate into knowing that person. Experience and inspiration are not the same thing. Philip like the other Apostles spent three years with Jesus but he still didn’t know him. What this implies is that we can be great church-goers for many years and yet, we may be worse than those who do not even know what a church looks like. It is not how far but how well. We may be locking ourselves up in the chapel for days but it is what is inside our hearts that determines whether we are angels or demons.
Three, asking questions is the greatest way to learn. Philip could have kept quiet like a dull student in class who is too afraid of asking question so as to avoid having his peers laugh at him. It is good to ask questions. Do not go around assuming you know everything or that your opinions are perfect. You may be wrong.
Above all, Philip and James teach us that as ordinary as we may see ourselves, we are not useless to God.
Also, Philip and James like other background apostles teach us teach us that everybody cannot be stars at the same time. This is one lesson we men and women of God (ministers) must learn; God calls us to be faithful not necessarily to be successful. Ministry is about service not about rising to the top!
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, may St. Philip and James teach me how to be little in serving you. Amen.
Happy New Month. Be Happy. Live Positive. Have Faith. It is well with you. God bless you. (Feast of Saints Philip and James. Bible Study: 1st Corinthians 15:1-8 and John 14:6-14).
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