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Saints Philip and James

Father Francis's picture
Ss Philip and James

Two of the great missionaries of the early Church were apostles.

Philip came from the town of Bethsaida in Galilee. We know very little about his background but Jesus saw great value in him because He said "Follow Me" as soon as they met. In return Philip was so convinced that Jesus of Nazareth was the long-awaited Messiah that he immediately went to find his friend to tell him the good news. Nathaniel was sceptical at first, doubting whether anything good could come from Nazareth! But Philip simply said "Come and see" knowing that actually meeting the Messiah would have more impact. Three days after this meeting the disciples were with Jesus at the wedding in Cana. Philip was therefore privileged to witness the first miracle that Jesus performed. He would see many more.

He was a practical man and his first instinct was to raise objections. At the feeding of the 5,000, Jesus tested Philip’s faith by asking, "Where can we buy bread for these people to eat?" Philip thought only of the expense involved. "Two hundred denarii would only buy enough to give them a small piece each." When Jesus went on to feed the crowd from five loaves and two fish, it was a lesson to Philip that with God all things are possible.

Jesus was always talking about His Father and Philip, again the practical man, asked Jesus to show them the Father. "Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know Me? To have seen Me is to have seen the Father." Jesus is the perfect image of His Father, always did the things that pleased His Father and even said “the Father and I are One.” Did this convince Philip? Even if it didn't, I'm sure he accepted it because of his deep personal attachment to Jesus. Do His words convince us? If not let us be humble, like Philip, and accept them.

His feast day is shared with Saint James the Less, so called to distinguish him from James who was the son of Zebedee and brother of John the Evangelist. This James was the son of Alphaeus and a relative of Jesus. Highly regarded by St. Paul, who described him as a "pillar" of the Church.

James wrote a Letter to Jewish converts throughout the Roman Empire, in a simple style, full of practical advice, with an emphasis on "good deeds." Evidently he was a man of action, for he tells his readers, "It is by doing something good, and not only by believing, that a man is justified." Every action must be centred on God. "If you are in trouble, pray, and if you are happy, sing a psalm."

James also had a sympathetic attitude towards Gentiles who wanted to join the Church. He was determined to simplify the rules and restrictions imposed on converts, because he did not want to "make things more difficult for pagans who turn to God." James died a martyr's death in the year 62.

What do these two saints have in common? Their faith was based on a close friendship with Jesus. We can follow their example and try to become closer to Jesus in prayer and in action. We know that every effort we make will be rewarded by God, for as James says, "The nearer you go to God, the nearer He will come to you.”

In honouring these two saints we are honouring Jesus, because we are acknowledging what He saw in them.