In the Gospel for today’s feast, Jesus maintains that those who place their faith in him will do the works that he does, and even greater ones. It is hard to imagine that anyone could do greater works than those performed by Jesus himself. Coming as it does from the Gospel of John, the evangelist has had many years to consider all of the wonderful things that have been done by the ones who were sent out by Jesus.
Philip came from Bethsaida, the same city which gave us Andrew and Peter. Before he followed Jesus, he had been a disciple of John the Baptist. He was one of those present when John pointed out Jesus as the Lamb of God. He was chosen to be one of the disciples a day after Jesus had chosen Peter and John. Each of the Gospels mentions Philip by name, but it is in the Gospel of John that we learn more about him. According to tradition, Philip preached in Phrygia, in Asia Minor. Clement of Alexandria records that he was crucified like Peter, upside down in Hieropolis. His two daughters were much revered in the early community and are mentioned in the letters of Polycrates, bishop of Ephesus.
James is often called “James the Just” or “James the Less” because of his famed moral life style. He became a prominent leader of the Jerusalem community and was known to keep all of the laws of Judaism while preaching the Gospel to that Jewish community. He became the first bishop of Jerusalem and remained there until he was put to death by the Sanhedrin about the year 62. It is reported that he was thrown from a tower of the great Temple of Jerusalem and then beaten to death by the crowd gathered below. He is the reputed author of several works, including the Letter of St. James which we find in the Christian Scriptures. He is also supposed to have written the “Infancy Gospel” based on the Gospels of Mark and Luke. However, this work is not part of the Canon of Scripture.
As the responsorial psalm for today reminds us, it was the apostles who carried the message of Jesus, the Good News, to the ends of the then known world. It is remarkable that so few could affect so many by their faith and their preaching. They stand as witnesses and examples to us as we are charged to carry on the task of evangelization.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator