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Kevin ClarkeMay 03, 2023
Man in black jacket lying on floorPhoto by Jon Tyson, courtesy of Unsplash.

A Reflection for the Feast of Saints Philip and James, Apostles

Find today’s readings here.

“He appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve.After that, he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at once … Last of all, as to one born abnormally, he appeared to me.” (1 Cor 15:5-8)

What is the cliché? “If I were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict me?” Surely someone can produce a witness or two at least?

In the first reading today, Paul is taking no chances, rolling out scores of witnesses to convince this jury of his first-generation Christian peers. He knows that what he is preaching to the Corinthians about the miraculous life, death and resurrection of this Nazarene rabbi is spectacularly difficult to swallow, so he is careful to detail all the folks who can corroborate the story of the true, divine origins and events being experienced in Jerusalem in that first century.

Paul can empathize with the Corinthians struggling with their unbelief. Like them, his born-again moment came “abnormally,” after Jesus passed through his earthly life. Though he adds some personal reassurance on the veracity of Christ’s resurrection, adding that, like the Apostles, he has had his own eyewitness moment: “You should get by on faith alone, of course, but BTW: I’ve seen him too!”

You don’t have to beat yourself up, if, like the Apostles, you have your moments of unbelief.

All these holy men and women—“most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep”—can stand as witnesses to the marvelous events that evangelizers like Paul were asking them to accept on faith. It was no doubt hard to do so then. It still is.

Even the people closest to Jesus never seemed to understand what was going on; they don’t even seem to get Jesus really.

In today’s Gospel, Philip, misunderstanding Jesus’ frequent references to the Father, says: "Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us."

Jesus is exasperated, not for the first or last time, at the thick-headedness of the Apostles.

"Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip?” he asks.

“Whoever has seen me has seen the Father,” Jesus tells the befuddled Philip. Does that clear it up? We can imagine poor Philip spending the rest of the night trying to figure out exactly what Jesus was saying.

It’s a lot. It was a lot for Phillip; it’s a lot for you.

Like the Corinthians, we are far from the events of those times when Jesus walked the earth. We have only the same eyewitness reports 20 centuries ago to rely on—the same ones Paul details for the Corinthians.

You don’t have to beat yourself up, if, like them, you have your moments of unbelief. Struggling with faith is nothing new—here’s evidence that it is as old as the church itself. We all participate in a historical drama we don’t necessarily apprehend and contribute to a future that remains hazy, indistinct, one we will not see ourselves. Take it on faith.

More: Scripture

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