Feast of Saints Philip and James, Apostles
The feast of two apostles, Philip and James, recalls an important aspect of our faith, an aspect made clear in today’s first reading from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. The faith, as Paul writes, is received and a crucial part of this reception is the work of the apostles. Our faith is nourished by the presence of the Lord in our hearts but that presence is also nourished by the community of the church which was instituted by Christ by means of the apostles. Our response to God is both individual and communal and this dual response has created no little tension in the church. The desire and insistence for the right of private interpretation of the faith and the scripture that supports that faith has, as historians will demonstrate, only lead to fragmentation. On the other hand, following communal rules without any adaptation to the necessities of time and place will leave religious experience an irrelevant artifact. The apostles, and those that came after them, were charged with the dual task of keeping the faith, the faith given to them by Christ, but to make that faith alive and meaningful for all men and women. This is the task of those who are currently following in the line of apostolic succession, the bishops. But it is a task of every Christian to understand the communal nature of our faith, to integrate that faith into our own hearts, and to make that faith accessible in various times and places. In this role we all share in some of the duties of apostolic succession.