“How many times do I have to tell you?” Most of us have either asked or have been asked this question—usually by our parents.
Jesus must have felt the same kind of exasperation with Philip. He had told his apostles, “If you know me, you will know my Father also,” and immediately Philip says, “Lord, show us the Father.” These men found it so difficult to understand Jesus’ words that he was one with the Father.
Philip and James are two of the lesser-known apostles. James, from Cana in Galilee, is the son of Alphaeus and should not be confused with James the son of Zebedee. Little is known about him, except that Jesus chose him to be one of his apostles. Philip came from the town of Bethsaida in Galilee, also the home of Peter and Andrew, and was one of the first disciples chosen by Jesus. Ancient tradition says that Philip died as a martyr and his relics, along with those of St. James, reside in the Church of the Holy Apostles in Rome.
As is the case with the other apostles, Philip and James are good examples for us that it’s not always easy to experience God or understand his ways. How often do we walk in the presence of God without even knowing that he is with us? How often do we take for granted the marvelous works of God that abound everywhere? How often are we blinded to God’s presence by our daily distractions?
Eventually, Philip and James learned how to receive Jesus’ revelation with open hearts, and so can we. But like them, we have to work at it. This means dedicating ourselves to reading and studying Scripture, to spending time in prayer, and to examining our consciences so that no obstacle of sin keeps us in darkness. We can look for Jesus in the beauty of the earth and in other people, especially the poor and marginalized. We can experience his presence as we gather with our brothers and sisters to worship. We can discover God as we look within ourselves as temples of the Holy Spirit. He is right there, always ready to reveal himself as we learn how to pay attention.
“Lord God, with confidence I hold out my hands to receive your Holy Spirit. Come, Spirit, and guide me as I pursue the revelation of Christ!”