May 3

Sts. Philip and James the Apostles

Sts. Philip and James were Apostles (see Matthew 10:2-4, Mark 3:16-19 Luke 5:10-11). According to tradition, Philip evangelized parts of Syria and Greece. He was crucified in the city of Hierpolis for the faith. St. James (known as the "Lesser") is identified as the "son of Alphaeus" in Roman Catholic tradition, thus making him the same person as James the Just, the first bishop of Jerusalem; this James is not the same person as James the son of Zebedee and the brother of John (James the Greater).

First Reading: 1 Corinthians 15:1-8

1 I made known to you the Good News, that I evangelized among you, (that) which you received, (that) in which you have stood, 2 through which you are being saved, in which word I evangelized among you, if you hold onto certainly unless you believed without good reason.

3 I passed along to you in the first (of importance) what I received: that Christ died on behalf of our sins according to the Scriptures; 4 that he was buried and he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures; 5 he was seen by Kephas, then the Twelve; 6 then he was seen by more than five hundred brothers all at once, out of whom more remain (alive) until now, but some fell asleep (in death); 7 then he was seen by James, then all of the apostles. 8 But, certainly last of all, as a premature birth, he also appeared to me.

15:1 "Good News" is "evangelion" in Greek. So, the next phrase "that I evangelized among you" is redundant; the verb "evangelize" the verb form of the noun "evangelion." Paul used this language for emphasis.

15:1-2 This sentence focused on Paul's "evangelion" (i.e., Good News). After the main clause, he built an "A-B-A" structure. His preaching of the Good News ("evangelized") forms the "A" that highlighted the origin of the community ("(that) which you received"), its reason for being ("in which having stood"), and its direction ("through which you are being saved"). In other words, the Good News Paul preached resulted in the establishment of the community at Corinth and the salvation of that community. If the members deviated from that Good News, their faith was in vain.

15:3b-8 Did Paul argue out of a strict time frame? Or did he rearrange the time frame for his argument? Clearly, 15:3b-5 was the correct time sequence: Jesus died, rose, and was seen by Peter (Kephas in Aramaic) and the Twelve. But, the rest of the sequence could be questioned. Was Paul really the last to see the Risen Lord? Or, did he use the end position to argue that he was "least of the apostles?" While a definitive answer was not possible, Paul did argue the "last is first" in 15:10; he worked harder than any other apostle.

What saps the Church of it energy? More than heresy, backbiting, gossip, and judging others misdirects and ultimately corrupts the community. These vices have been the implied themes Paul railed against in First Corinthians. Over and over, he tried to refocus the sights of the Corinthians on the Good News and its implications for life (i.e., the greater spiritual gift of wisdom and the theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity). In this passage, he again set his sights on the Good News itself.

Paul clearly believed the "evangelion" itself had power. For it was an encounter with Christ. The "evangelion" was the reason the community began. When Paul preached the Good News, people responded in faith. The "evangelion" was the reason the community existed. The faithful "stood firm" in the faith. And the "evangelion" was the instrument of salvation. Through the Good News, the faithful met Christ, hence they were being saved. This last phrase needs to be emphasized. Salvation was dynamic, ever present, AS LONG AS CHRIST WAS PRESENT. Hence the preaching of the Good News and its constant reception by the faithful (forever offer and acceptance), were instruments of Christ acting in the world. Through preaching and faith, people realize Christ is present. So, they can always say "Yes" to the gift God offers them.

Since the Reformation, there has been a split over the instrumentality of salvation through the word preached. Some connect the preacher as the instrument. Others focus upon the Good News proclaimed. Clearly, in 15:1-2, the latter was emphasized. Paul may have preached, but the Good News saved the believer. However, in 15:3-8, the former was emphasized. The apostles were those "sent by" the Risen Christ. They shared not only the Good News, but their experience of Revelation. In this sense, Good News was tactile. What they saw and touched and heard changed them. And it had the power to change others. After they encountered the Risen Lord, they became the face of Christ to others.

Of course, Paul noted the irony of the experience. He experienced the Risen Lord on the way to Damascus. In the encounter, his world was ripped apart. His world view and belief system was turned upside down and inside out. He was no longer the Pharisee who zealously lived out obedience to the Law. He was now the Christian preacher who experienced God outside the Law. And he lived the rest of his life passing that experience along to others.

Paul drew a direct, clear line of ministry to the appearance of Jesus. And he charged his audience to carry on the mission. Evangelization, then, was more than bringing the words of the Good News to life. It was to live the Good News to the extent that it inspired others to believe. In other words, evangelization was to be the presence Christ for others. That presence begins with an experience of the Risen Christ that started with another believer. The ongoing chain of experiences traced its way from us, through the Church, to the apostles that saw the Risen Lord.

What saps the Church of its energy? Its strength? Clearly, anything that takes it away from its primary mission: to be Christ to the world. Paul's message to the Corinthians could not be more relevant today.

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Gospel: John 14:6-14

6 JESUS said to (Thomas), "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through ME."

Jesus opened this gospel with his famous line: "I am the way, the truth, and the life." [14:6a] Much ink has been spilled over this obtuse phrase, depending where the commentator placed his (or her) emphasis. In context, we should place the emphasis on the "way." Jesus was the means to Father. [14:6b] Unfortunately, the sentence has two additional objects ("truth" and "life"). What was the relationship of truth and life with Jesus as the way to the Father?

The key word in the Jesus' declaration was "truth." "Truth" connected "way" and "life" as a modifier to either. In other words, Jesus was the "true" (i.e., faithful) way to life with the Father. Or, Jesus was the way to "true" life (i.e., a life with meaning and purpose only God could give: eternal life). In this way, "truth" bridged "way" and "life."

But, Jesus implied more in his declaration: "I AM...the TRUTH..." For a moment, suspend any modern notion of truth as a relationship between the person and the facts, or a consistent relationship between ideas. Equate the word "true" with "only." Then, ask yourself: What is the only thing that is true, the only thing that matters? Any other answer than "God" would be false. In this context, the only true reality is God. Any existence away from God is false. In this sense, one finds truth only in a relationship with God.

When Jesus said "I AM...the TRUTH...," he asserted his divinity. The phrase "I AM..." echoed the name of God revealed to Moses in Exodus 3:14-15. The "TRUTH" revealed the only reality that mattered in the world. Any belief that detracted from Jesus was false. Any choice away from a life as a follower was a false choice. For the Christian, Jesus was the "TRUTH" because he was God!

So, in the phrase, "I am the way, the truth, and the life," Jesus declared he was the only means to the Father and he was the very presence of God on earth. Christians professed an adage that summed up the Jesus' phrase well: "Wherever God acts, God is." In Jesus, God acts because God is.

7 "Now (all of) you have known ME, you will know the Father. From now (on), (all of) you know him and have seen him." 8 Philip said to HIM, "LORD, show us the Father and (that) will be enough for us." 9 JESUS said to him, " I am with (all of) you for such a (long) time and you have not known me, Philip? The (person) having seen ME has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father?' 10 Do you not believe, (Philip,) that I am in the Father and the Father is in ME? The words which I spoke to (all of) you I did not speak by myself; the Father remaining in me does his works. 11 Believe me that the Father is in ME and I am in the Father. But if not, believe because of these works. 12 Amen, amen, I say to you (all). The (person) believing in ME will also do the works that I do, and (even) greater than these he will do, because I go to the Father. 13 Whatever you should ask in MY name, this I will do, so that the Father will be gloried in the SON. 14 Whatever you should ask ME in MY name, I will do."

14:7-12 The word "you" shifted from singular (Thomas and Phillip) to plural (the followers), depending upon the context. The Greek endings on the word "you" indicated that shift that might be difficult to follow in English. For the sake of clarity, the plural was indicated with the phrase "all of you" and "you all."

The followers of the Jesus knew him because they lived with him, ate with him, argued with him. However, experience can breed disbelief. [14:5, 8] They knew what Jesus did in the past. They did not know what he could do in the future. At one point in time, he would reveal the impossible, the very face of the Father.

Judaism built its spirituality upon the notion of the unseen God. The God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob so transcended time and space, was so unique and separate from earthly existence, no picture or statue could capture the essence of YHWH. In fact, Jews considered it an idolatry to even attempt such a feat. They believed they would die if they ever saw the face of an all-powerful, transcendent God.

Now the time had come. The moment was the crucifixion. They saw the face of a loving Father in the self-giving of his Son. That was the point of "...from now on,..." [14:7b] By gazing upon the crucifixion in faith, the followers of Jesus saw the face of the Father. They knew him. And, in that one scene, they knew the Father was in Jesus and Jesus was in the Father. If they didn't see that fact, then they really didn't know Jesus. [14:9-10]

The power of the Father through Jesus presented the beginning for faith. [14:11b] The same power that flowed through Jesus would flow through his followers. [14:12] One could see the results of this power in great miracles and mighty deeds. But the power of the Father resulted in something greater, the self-giving love of the follower. In the love of the disciple, the world saw the face of the Father and it could now see the intimate union of the Father and the Son. [14:11a]

It is in the self-giving love that we ask the Father. We do not ask for ourselves, but we ask so the Father will be glorified. When we pray the truly selfless prayer, we pray to do the will of the Father, that prayer will be answered by the Son. [14:13-14]

The importance of the Apostles, especially the witness of James the Less, points us toward an experience of the Risen Christ. Yet, it was an experience of the Crucifixion that showed Apostles like Philip (and us) the true face of the Father, a God of love that would sacrifice his most beloved Son for the salvation of the world.

Two Apostles represent two aspects of Christ: the Jesus of John's Gospel at the moment of his glorious death and the Risen Christ who the Apostles (and their heirs) witness to.

How are you like James, a witness to the Risen Christ? How are you like Philip, who saw the face of the Father in the death of the Lord?