Saturday, May 03, 2003

St. Philip and St. James, apostles, and their shocking teaching

Today is the feast day of SS. Philip and James. Philip was chosen to be one of the Twelve on the second day Jesus was selecting, and he almost immediately celebrated by getting Nathaniel and Jesus together. {Nathaniel asks, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" and Philip replies, "Come and see!"] In the Gospel of John, Philip is the one to ask all of the questions the other apostles are too scared or too embarrassed to speak.. Early in the book of Acts, he evangelizes the Ethiopean official. And he had four daughters, all of whom were acknowledged prophets in the Church. He took the good news to Greece and was martyred there.

James (the Younger) became the bishop of Jerusalem, chaired the Council of Jerusalem [which solved many difficulties regarding non-Jewish believers and the Church], and was martyred by being thrown from the Temple's pinnacle. One of his letters is in the Bible: here is some of its shocking, some even say scandalous, teaching:

My brothers, do not try to combine faith in Jesus Christ, our glorified Lord, with the making of distinctions between classes of people. Now suppose a man comes into your synagogue, beautifully dressed and with a gold ring on, and at the same time a poor man comes in, in shabby clothes, and you take notice of the well-dressed man, and say, "Come this way to the best seats"; then you tell the poor man, "Stand over there" or "You can sit on the floor by my foot-rest." Can't you see that you have used two different standards in your mind, and turned yourselves into judges, and corrupt judges at that?

Listen, my dear brothers: it was those who are poor according to the world that God chose, to be rich in faith and to be the heirs to the kingdom which he promised to those who love him. In spite of this, you have no respect for anybody who is poor. Isn't it always the rich who are against you? Isn't it always their doing when you are dragged before the court? Aren't they the ones who insult the honourable name to which you have been dedicated? Well, the right thing to do is to keep the supreme law of scripture:
you must love your neighbor as yourself; but as soon as you make distinctions between classes of people, you are committing sin, and under condemnation for breaking the Law.

You see, if a man keeps the whole of the Law, except for one small point at which he fails, he is still guilty of breaking it all. It was the same person who said, "You must not commit adultery" and "You must not kill." Now if you commit murder, you do not have to commit adultery as well to become a breaker of the Law. Talk and behave like people who are going to be judged by the law of freedom, because there will be judgment without mercy for those who have not been merciful themselves; but the merciful need have no fear of judgment.

If you dare, read the entire Letter of James today; it is not long. It is only challenging.

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