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Saints Philip and James, Apostles (1.5.79, The Queen’s College, Birmingham) (606 words)
On this day somewhere between 561 and 574 AD under Pope
John III the Basilica of the Apostles was dedicated at Rome and the supposed
relics of the apostle James the son of Alphaeus and of the apostle Philip were
deposited in the basilica. And that is why we have this coupling of Philip and
James observed on this day.
We can say nothing about James, for he is no more than a name in a list, and so we shall turn our attention to Philip.
It is the Fourth Gospel that tells us about Philip, and, as is the case with so many of the members of the Twelve who ever are mentioned more than once in any of the gospels, he is presented as a combination of faith, of evangelical zeal, and of obtuseness – which, I think, makes him very much like us.
In John chapter 1 Jesus calls him to follow him, and Philip then goes and calls Nathanael, confessing that "We have found him of whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph". When Nathanael says, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" Philip invites him to "Come and see". Here is the confession of faith and here is the evangelical zeal.
But yet when we reach the Passover feeding in John chapter 6, it is Philip who says, "two hundred denarii, that is, 200 days’ wages, would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little."
Again, at Passover time in John chapter 12 when the Greeks say to Phlip, "Sir, we would see Jesus", Philip tells Andrew and the two of them tell Jesus – once more, evangelical zeal.
But yet when we reach today’s gospel in John chapter 14, having been told by Jesus that "Henceforth you know the Father and have seen him", Philip replies, "Lord, show us the Father and we shall be satisfied" – and he is then rebuked for his pains. Philip is in good company at this point, so to speak, for Peter has just been told that he will deny Jesus three times despite his protesting that he will lay down his life for Jesus, and Thomas likewise has just been presented as unperceptive for not knowing the way that Jesus is going or where he is going.
And Philip, who has asked to shown the Father, is told that he should have realized long since that in seeing Jesus he has seen the Father’s works and in hearing Jesus he has heard the Father’s words, so that in Jesus he has seen the father.
I would suggest that our path of discipleship is very much like that which John shows us in Philip. We have felt called of Christ and we have wanted to share him with others, and yet as we go on in our discipleship, as we experience it, for example, in our studies here in college and in our common life together, we find time and again that our whole apprehension of Christ is challenged to grow and to deepen.
So let us like Philip persevere in following and confessing Jesus, in bringing our Nathaniels and our Greeks to him, and in recognizing that time and again, both in this college and in our ministry we shall be brought up short and invited to enter into a greater understanding of Jesus and of the Father who sent him.
To that end let us now, with the whole company of saints, including Philip and James, seek to know our Lord anew and more deeply in the Breaking of the Bread.