We celebrate two faithful servants of God today, two disciples from a band of twelve that walked beside Jesus on His earthly journey. They are linked because the relics of each were brought to Rome on the same early day in May.
Let’s begin with Philip, whom Jesus called saying simply, “Follow me.” Philip was an outgoing and enthusiastic man and did not hesitate to call others. It was Philip that brought Nathanael to Jesus. “We have found the one about whom Moses wrote in the law, and also the prophets. Jesus son of Joseph from Galilee,” he announced, to which Nathanael famously replied, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” John 1:45, 46 Undeterred, Philip invites his friend to come and see for himself. However, like all of us, Philip had his times of doubt. When asked by Jesus to buy bread for the great multitude of those gathered to listen, Philip answered that not two hundred days of wages would feed so many, not even a little. He was also the one who asked the Lord Jesus that most embarrassing of questions, “Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.” John 14:8 Philip suffered martyrdom in Greece during the reign of the Roman Emperor, Domitian. Crucified upside down, he remained Christ’s loyal friend and disciple to the end.
James, the Son of Alphaeus, was chosen by Jesus to be one of the twelve pillars of His church, the New Israel. This James was known as James the Lesser, an indication that James, the son of Zebedee, and known as James the Greater, was the older of the two apostles. James the Lesser is identified as the author of the Epistle of James and assumed to be the first Bishop of Jerusalem. He, like Philip, died a martyr’s death. During the time of Nero, Emperor of Rome, James was arrested during Passover, about the year A.D. 62. He was ordered to stand on top of the Jerusalem wall and preach against Jesus. Instead, he climbed to the top and told all who would listen about the death and resurrection of Christ. Soldiers threw him from the wall, and when the fall did not kill him, stoned him to death. He died on that day, at that place, a faithful follower of the Lord he loved.