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St Philip and St James
Apostles, (entered heaven in the first century)
The great thing about the Apostles is how normal they were. Jesus Christ always chooses ordinary people to become extraordinary saints. You should keep that in mind, because it applies to you too. To do something magnificent for the Kingdom of Christ takes nothing more than the grace of God united to a generous, loving heart, like the hearts of Philip and James. In the fourth Gospel, we get to know Philip pretty well. Remember when he first meets Jesus and our Lord invites him, “Follow me”? Then he goes to Nathaniel to tell him that he’s found the Messiah. Nathaniel doesn’t believe him, and Philip responds with the simplest, most appropriate answer an apostle can give: “Come and see.” No highbrow theology there, just common sense and a lot of faith. Of course, it ended up killing him in the end – after spreading the gospel in northern Syria he was crucified upside down by the Romans, martyred just like all other Apostles (except for John, of course).
James (this one is not John’s brother, but the son of Alpheus, a relative of Jesus, called “James the Lesser”) was the same way: matter-of-fact, straightforward, no-nonsense. He took charge of the Church in Jerusalem, and under him, the Christian ranks swelled so quickly that the authorities stoned him to death in front of the Temple to try and stave off further growth. He was called “James the Just” by the early Christians. He has some of my favorite lines in the Bible. In his letter, he writes: “Faith without works is dead.” (James 2:17) Pretty clear, isn’t it? And then, “Nobody who fails to keep a tight rein on the tongue can claim to be religious; this is mere self-deception; that person’s religion is worthless.” (James 1:26) That’s no pie-in-the-sky, touchy-feely spiritual sedative; that’s a faith for real life.
You see, my dear nephew, Christianity is at the same time the most sublime of creeds (because in Christ we are made sharers in the very life of God) and the most practical, because Jesus Christ was both God and man, so nothing human is foreign to him. Be like the Apostles then: keep your heart in heaven, and your feet firmly planted on the ground.
Count on my prayers, Uncle Eddy