Philip was born at Bethsaida. Formerly a disciple of John the Baptist, he became a follower of Christ. James, the son of Alphaeus and a cousin of the Lord, ruled the Church at Jerusalem, wrote an Epistle, and led a life of penance. He converted many of the Jews to the true faith and was martyred in the year 62.
We celebrate the Apostles because they are our link to the history. They remind us that the events we bring to life in our liturgy are not mythological. As the first reading reports, Jesus walked the earth and was seen after His resurrection by he Eleven. They saw His gestures and heard His words.
The second reason why the Apostles are important is that they were the very first to interpret the meaning of the events of Good Friday and Easter Sunday. It was “for our sins”. The life of Jesus was a great deal more than an ordinary human life. Over the centuries, all kinds of interpretations of the significance of Jesus would be developed. The apostolic witness as articulated in the New Testament remains normative for all Christians.
Finally, by preaching and teaching, they enabled others who did not see the gestures and hear the words to experience the Risen Lord in Word and Sacrament. They created the liturgical experience of Christ and were the first to celebrate in memory of Him.
But the Apostles were very human. In today’s Gospel reading (John 14:6-14), as the Lord declares Himself as “the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6), Philip still asks to see the Father (John 14:8). He wanted to witness the glory and majesty descend from heaven. Jesus answers that whoever has seen and experienced Him has seen and experienced the Father (see John 14:9).
The Apostles are a comforting reminder to us that holiness is humanly possible. In our mistakes and failures, the humanity of the Church is live testimony to the fact that the Lord loves us and not some ideal. He died for us, just as we are.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, You give us the joy every year of celebrating the feast day of the apostles Philip and James. Make us partners, by their prayers, in the passion and resurrection of Your only-begotten Son, so that we may come to the eternal vision of Your glory. We pray this in the most precious name of our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Jakarta, 3 May 2019
A Christian Pilgrim