Friday 1st May - The Apostles Philip and James
On Jeremy Vine’s BBC Radio 2 weekday programmes well known people from all walks of life are regularly invited to offer their thoughts about ‘What Makes us Human’. Each presents a short reflection about important issues that define the essence of humanity. Every reflection has been insightful and some have helped expand my own thinking and perspectives about what makes us human.
For many, our ability to form friendships and to love and care for others is a key issue. Others have emphasised the importance of imagination because imagination can help us reach out beyond our temporal limitations to contemplate and even wrestle with the meaning of life in ways that are deeply personal and spiritual.
Well, today we are remembering the apostles Philip and James. We might think of apostles as super-perfect and holy people called by God to live in a state of sanctity but they were people, not unlike us, who experienced doubts and fears and at times questioned their faith and sense of calling. Some of the apostles, according to accounts, were not totally confident in following Jesus because they were fearful about their safety and future and about being persecuted as disciples of Jesus.
The apostle Philip was one who did not fully share the confidence and security of faith of of his fellow disciples, according to accounts, but despite his concerns he remained a loyal disciple. He was present at the feeding of the five thousand, preached the gospel in Greece and other countries, and is often represented in religious imagery with his brother Andrew.
The apostle James, often referred to as James the Great, was the son of Zebedee and brother of John. James stayed with Jesus throughout his ministry and he was one of Jesus’ closest friends and trusted disciple. He was nevertheless, from some accounts, a somewhat impetuous and hot-tempered disciple (nicknamed ‘son of thunder’) who expressed a level of anger at a Samaritan village for not giving hospitality to Jesus and his disciples. James was one of the disciples who witnessed Jesus’ Transfiguration on the Mount of Olives and his agony in Gethsemane and he was the first of the apostles to be martyred.
Life must have been challenging for the apostles as life is and continues to be for many today. Events, hardships, insecurities, fears and doubts about the future can lead us to wrestle with and question our faith but the example of such apostles as Philip and James can help lift us above whatever difficulties and problems disturb us and lessen our ability, willingness and humanness to love and care for one another and live the gospel as people of God.
The opposite of faith is not doubt but fear. Love is important because love dispels fear. I think Philip and James knew this and it enabled them, inspired by the Spirit, to trust and believe and get on with the job God called them to do.
With love and God bless,
The Collect of the day is said
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 your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.