Philip and James appear in the list of the twelve apostles in the first three gospels but are frequently confused with other early saints who share their names. In John’s gospel, Philip has a more prominent role, being the third of the apostles to be called by Jesus and then himself bringing his friend Nathanael to the Lord. Philip is the spokesman for the other apostles who are questioning the capacity for feeding the five thousand and, at the Last Supper, enters into a sort of dialogue with Jesus which leads to the Farewell Discourses of our Lord.
James is said to be the son of Alphæus and is often known as ‘James the Less’ to distinguish him. He may also be the ‘James the Younger’ who, in Mark’s gospel, is a witness at the Crucifixion.
They are celebrated on the same day because the church in Rome, where their relics rest, was dedicated on this day in the year 560.
O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
whom truly to know is eternal life:
teach us to know your Son Jesus Christ
as the way, the truth, and the life;
that we may follow the steps
of your holy apostles Philip and James,
and walk steadfastly in the way that leads to your glory;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Blessed are those whose way is pure,
who walk in the law of the Lord.
Blessed are those who keep his testimonies
and seek him with their whole heart,
Those who do no wickedness,
but walk in his ways.
You, O Lord, have charged
that we should diligently keep your commandments.
O that my ways were made so direct
that I might keep your statutes.
Then should I not be put to shame,
because I have regard for all your commandments.
I will thank you with an unfeigned heart,
when I have learned your righteous judgements.
I will keep your statutes;
O forsake me not utterly.
Glory to the Father and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning, is now
and shall be for ever. Amen.
Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling-places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going.’ Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.’
Philip said to him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.’ 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”? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.’
Unusually, today’s reading begins with a complete restatement of yesterday’s, but then goes on to show us how this scene in Jesus’ life moves on. Today we do not only hear Jesus tell us that he is the way, and the truth, and the life, but we see, and can be encouraged by, the way in which his disciples struggle with this teaching. Yesterday, I reflected upon what our acceptance of Jesus statement might mean. Accepting Jesus as the way and the truth that will lead us to eternal life can be very challenging indeed. Today, we see Philip not understanding the importance of faith in this equation.
Philip and James, whom the Church celebrates today, are two of Jesus’ closest companions. They are two of those who were with him throughout his adult ministry, throughout the days of his signs, his teaching and his healing of the lost and vulnerable. But, despite having been in this privileged position, Philip is still asking for proof that he can see with his own eyes: Lord, show us the Father and we will be satisfied.
Does this not cause you to shout out in despair? If those first disciples, even if it is only one of those first disciples, struggle to believe what is before their eyes, what hope can there be for us, two thousand years later?
Since the moment of the resurrection we have been challenged with committing ourselves to believing that which many would describe as the unbelievable. But that is the very essence of being a committed follower of Christ. Jesus is the one and only person who was raised from the dead. Furthermore, that rising from the dead was part of God’s redemptive plan for the whole of humanity. To benefit from that plan, to win our promised place in heaven, we just have to believe in the veracity of Christ’s resurrection, something we cannot see with our own eyes but that needs to be viewed through the eyes of faith.
In recent times there have been many conspiracy theories. Did beings from Outer Space land on this planet in the 1950s? Was the assassination of President Kennedy the work of government agencies? Did man really walk on the moon? Was Princess Diana the victim of an establishment plot? Was 9/11 really an act of Islamic terrorism? The questions and the conspiracies pile up, feeding our scepticism, even when we are confronted with the truth. As humanity develops an ever-growing sense of its self-worth, it feels increasingly equipped to make judgements on the truth of every situation that presents itself. Unfortunately, such self-assurance brings with it the destruction of faith, faith in that which we cannot see but which is most certainly true.
Jesus urges us to believe and to have faith in him, and not to rely solely on our own judgement and wisdom. Jesus does not invite us to wrap it up in fancy explanations and he does not try to persuade us to believe that which is untrue. Rather, Jesus offers us the way in which we might come to know the truth of God’s presence with us. Thus he offers us the eternal life God wants for us all.
Prayers of Intercession
In the fellowship of the saints let us pray to the Lord.
Give to those who confess the faith of Jesus Christ grace to bring people to him. Inspire the Church with the hope which filled those who walked with him in the years of his earthly ministry.
Bring light to a world where many seek for assurance in their loneliness and uncertainty. Draw all humankind together to find the way, to learn the truth and to share the life of the Lord.
In this springtime of the year, fill us with new hope in all parts of our lives. May the joy of the saints spread among all with whom we live and work.
We pray for all who have lost their faith and turned to false doctrines or walk in dark ways. Bring healing to the sick, courage to the dying and comfort to those who mourn.
May the departed who walked this world in the way of their Lord enter into new life through him. May their portion be with Philip and James and all the saints.
We pray in the name of Jesus Christ, the Way, the Truth and the Life.
Prayer for the week
risen from the dead and alive for evermore:
stand in our midst as in the upper room;
speak your peace to our hearts and minds;
and send us forth into the world as your apostles;
for the glory of your name.
The Lord’s Prayer
Let us pray with confidence as our Saviour has taught us
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
and the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
be with us all evermore. Amen.
In power unseen upon us rest,
your gracious gifts impart:
a mind renewed, a spirit blessed,
a life where Christ is manifest,
an understanding heart,
an understanding heart.
Timothy Dudley-Smith (b. 1926)