Saturday May 3, 2003 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier   Second Week of Easter

 

Reading (1 Corinthians 15:1-8)   Gospel (St. John 14:6-14)

 

Today, as we celebrate the feast of Saint Philip and Saint James, we must understand who they are. This is not Philip, the deacon from the Acts of the Apostles, the one who spoke to the Ethiopian eunuch and then was suddenly translated to another place; but rather this is Philip who is from the same town as Peter and Andrew. He is one of the apostles who receives an awful lot of attention from Our Lord. Philip oftentimes does not understand. In fact, just yesterday in the Gospel reading we heard Jesus asking Philip, “Where are we going to get bread enough to feed all of these people?” and Philip replied, “Even two hundred days’ wages would not be able to feed all of these people.” And yet it was also Philip who went and found Nathaniel when he was sitting under the fig tree and said, “We have found the Messiah. We have found the one Moses spoke of in the law, and the prophets also.” He knew Who Jesus was. We recall, of course, Nathaniel’s response: “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” But at that point, the faith of Philip is what converted Nathaniel. Nathaniel is the same person known also as Bartholomew, one of the twelve apostles.

 

The Saint James that we celebrate today is James the Less – “Less” not meaning that he is less than anyone else, but “Less” meaning that he is younger than the other James who is known as James the Greater. He is the elder James; he is the one who went to Spain and was martyred there. The James whom we celebrate today is Saint James who is known as the brother of the Lord. He is a cousin of Jesus. He is one of the sons of another Mary who was also near the Cross, as we read in Saint Mark’s Gospel, and he is the first bishop of Jerusalem. In the Acts of the Apostles, after Peter had spoken at the Council of Jerusalem and determined that the Gentile converts would not have to be circumcised in order to be Christian, it was James, as the Bishop of Jerusalem, who wrote the letter to the Gentile converts telling them that they did not have to do this. James is also the first of the apostles who was martyred. He was beheaded, Scripture tells us. And when that was found out to have met with great favor among some of the leaders, then they went after some of the other apostles. Most of them had already dispersed by that time because of the persecution among the Christians.

 

So we celebrate two great apostles today, two apostles who, like the rest, did not understand but came to understand. We hear about Saint James having a vision of Our Lord, obviously Our Lord telling him what he was going to suffer, what he was going to have to do for the Church. We hear about Philip in the Gospel reading today, Our Lord telling us that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, telling us that He is one with the Father and anyone who has seen Him has seen the Father, and telling us also that anything we would ask in His Name, He will do.

 

These are extraordinary promises that are given to us by Our Lord, promises, tragically, that most of us do not believe and do not trust: that anything we ask in His Name, He will do. And the reason that most of us do not trust this is not necessarily because we do not believe in our heads that Jesus is God, because we all know that. It is just that we are afraid to really put ourselves out on the line. “What if He does not do what He said He was going to do?” And so then we start hedging our bets and we start watering down what it is that we are asking for or how we are asking it, and we really do not have the faith that we profess.

 

When we look at the saints, who pretty much got anything that they asked for from the Lord, first of all, it was because their will was united with Our Lord’s Will so they were never asking anything that was in opposition to the Will of God; but secondly, they asked with absolute confidence, total faith, and God provided for them. So if we are seeking the Will of God and seeking the good of those around us, then we too can ask anything in the Name of Jesus Christ and it will be granted – but we have to ask in faith – because He alone is the Way, He alone is the Truth, He alone is the Life. If we are looking for any other way, if we are rejecting any part of the truth or seeking some kind of truth outside of Jesus, or if we think there is some life apart from Christ, then we have no part of Him. And then what we ask in His Name is not going to be granted because we have not united ourselves with Him. Since it is the Father Who will grant whatever we ask and Jesus is one with the Father, if we are simply using His Name for personal gain, that is not going to get us very far. God will not answer such prayers as those because they are selfish. They are not in accordance with the Will of God and they are not for the good of God and neighbor.

 

So we need to look at our own disposition, we need to look at our own attitudes and faith, and we need to make sure that what we are seeking is union with Jesus Christ. And when we have union with Christ – the Way, the Truth, and the Life, He Who is one with the Father – then it is an absolute guarantee that anything, absolutely anything that we will ask in His Name will be granted.

 

*  This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.