In any hotel room or throughout any nook and cranny, one will never fail in finding a bible from the Gideons. While the bible remains the number one best seller book in the world, something still lacks. A lady can pick up a bible, read it and be fascinated and moved by it. But in the final analysis, she desires a community in which she is baptized. She longs to eat and drink from somewhere in order to have fellowship with others because that it is our human make up. So while the scriptures are a beautiful thing to ponder and meditate upon, it breathes best in the witness of the Church. The scriptures come alive when one person witnesses to the other a deep and abiding love that a Christian has for Christ. People have come to know him in a personal encounter. People like Philip and James. Today’s feast is one of those feast that have jumped around in our family calendar.
In the Roman Catholic Church, the feast day of Philip, along with that of James, was traditionally observed on the first of May which is the anniversary of the dedication of the church dedicated to them in Rome which is now called the Church of the Twelve Apostles. More recently in Church history, this feast was moved to May 11 and then to May 3 in order to honor May Day and laborers by attributing the 1st of May to Saint Joseph the worker.
Philip was a disciple of John the Baptist whom Jesus personally called to follow him. Shortly after, Phillip brought Nathanael to Christ. Philip was present at the miracleof the loaves and fishes in John 6 and it was there that he engaged in a brief dialogue with our Lord. He was the Apostle approached by the Hellenistic Jews from Bethsaida to introduce them to Jesus. Today, we hear John’s account prior to our Lord’s Passion. Jesus answers Philip’s question to see the father. Philip’s name returns in the Acts of the Apostles in the listing among the Apostles awaiting the Holy Spirit in the Upper Room. Now let’s turn to the reference of James.
The First Letter to Corinth will be the only interruption in the cycle of readings in the remaining weeks of the Easter Season. While this is an interruption in scriptural sequence it is still very important to hear during these fifty days of Easter. In it, Paul is setting the stage to explain the Resurrection of Christ to the people in Corinth who subscribed to the Greek concept of the soul continuing on to the afterlife rather than its reunification with the body at the end time. In this introduction, Paul makes reference to our Resurrected Lord appearing to James.
These men met the Lord during his ministry and resurrection not for their qualifications. They were very unqualified. These men met the Lord because our Lord called them, appeared to them, invited them to ask their questions, to eat with him, and after receiving the Advocate, to die for him.
In the annual Dinner for the Poor hosted this year at Double Tree Hotel for the Saint Vincent de Paul Ministry, the founder of Ignatius Press, Father Joseph Fessio, spoke on the mission of mercy and evangelization. He made a very provocative point, namely, while priests spend their lives in the study of philosophy and theology, it is not up to them to preach mercy and to announce the Resurrection to each individual. They preach the kerygma and feed the soul in order to send you to engage the sinful, the wounded, and the lost. You, the baptized will preach with your lives the mercy of God, you will be the mirror of the personal encounter of Christ to the lost.
As we approach Eucharist, remember Philip and James. Remember that they came to know Jesus because the Lord personally invited them, personally appeared to them, personally walked with them. It is a tall order to come to receive Eucharist at this altar because by eating his body and drinking his blood you are charged to be the meeting point of mercy and love for every person who picks up that bible in their local hotel room or book store. In the hunger that will be satisfied at this table, you will go from this place and possibly, just possibly, be the only bible that someone may ever read.