Today’s feast is that of the Apostles, Saints Philip and James. Philip, the one who asked Christ that if they could only ‘see the Father’ they ‘would be satisfied’. Of course, following upon my comments on Athanasius yesterday, Christ was already way ahead of the Arians, replying to Philip patiently: ‘He who has seen Me has seen the Father’. Christ is God, made manifest in the flesh.
‘James’ is termed the ‘Less’, from a reference to him in Mark’s Gospel, signifying he was younger (or in far less likely sense, perhaps shorter) than the other James ‘the Greater’ whose feast is on July 25th, and after whom the Santiago de Compastella is named. Today’s James is traditionally venerated as the author of the letter in the New Testament, well worth a re-read. Would that more bishops in the Church today would preach the Gospel with the veracity and verve of Bishop James, apostle and martyr.
Ponder just this oft-cited passage about the comfortable rich:
Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have rusted, and their rust will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure for the last days. Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned, you have killed the righteous man; he does not resist you.
And by ‘rich’ he does just mean material wealth, just as Christ did not mean it only in that way to the ‘rich’ young man. Rather, a ‘rich’ man is one who is comfortable with himself, complacent, thinking he needs not God, a state of mind to which one is easily led if one has abundant material wealth, but also by physical beauty, youth, strength, vitality, charisma, intelligence, all of which tempt us to that state of ‘pride’, exalting oneself before God.
Rather, as James declares a few lines before:
Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will exalt you.
And that means living in the truth of who we are before God, and before our fellow man. As Saint Francis would say a millennium later, what a man is before God, that he is, and nothing more. Anything else, really, is vanity, a storm-tossed phatansmagorgia.
Sancti Philippe et Jacobe, orate pro nobis!