An Example of Holiness – St. Philip

St. Philip, dragon slayer

In the Catholic tradition when one is baptized they are given a “baptismal name.” The name is generally that of a Saint. These names serve as examples of holiness that point towards “the spiritual tradition and long history of the saints who have gone before [them] and whom the liturgy celebrates in the rhythms of the sanctoral cycle” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, Article 3, section 2030). The name points the bearer to the greater tradition they are a part of and shows how the Lord has worked through others before them. Similarly, when Churches are blessed or dedicated they are given a name that points to an example of holiness.

The example of holiness the has been bestowed upon our building and community is St. Philip the Apostle. St. Philip  was a resident of Bethsaida of Galilee. It was here that Jesus found and commanded Philip to, “follow him” (John 1:43). Philip then does an extraordinary thing; he shares the news of Christ to another, Nathanael (John 1:45-46). He does not understand Jesus’s message yet, and probably has had little time to converse with him, but he has seen the Christ. Philip could play things safe and let Jesus continue to meet and command people to follow him. However, Philip surprises us, and does not let doubt and his lack of knowledge keep him from sharing about Christ.

St. Philip, dragon slayer
Like Saint George, Saint Philip is said to have slain a dragon. This and other heroic deeds were later additions to his life story.

The sharing of Christ that Philip partakes in is not a great decree, masterful speech, or strong command. He simply shares, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth” (John 1:45). Philip knew the scriptures enough to know it decreed a Messiah would come and He knew Jesus was that Christ. He did not explain Jesus’s mission, plans, or teachings. He did not ask or tell Nathanael to follow him; but he did tell him what he had seen.

Philip, like the rest of the apostles, was still a human who did not fully understand who Jesus was. He is the one who is overwhelmed by the prospect of feeding the five thousand and declares, “Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little” (John 6:5-9). It is also Philip who asks Jesus, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied” (John 14:8). So, despite seeing Jesus as Christ Philip did not fully comprehend the power and revelation of Jesus despite their closeness as they travelled together.

However, Philip is not left in this place of confusion. He is named as one of the faithful who went back to Jerusalem to pray after witnessing the ascension of Jesus (Acts 1:12-14). It is here that the Spirit descends upon these people and helps them understand the revelation Jesus shared to them. It is with this gift they begin their journey to spread the message of the Gospel. Philip is a part of this spreading of Jesus Christ’s revelation until his death.

His death does not end his ministry, but rather, allows us to delve into the example of holiness his life was. An example of a person who upon seeing Christ is convinced of his Christhood. An example that sharing the gospel does not need to be filled with complicated and intense conversation but can be a simple sharing of who Christ is. Philip also shows us the power of the Holy Spirit, which helps a weak and confused human begin to understand the revelation of the Lord and proclaim it with vigor. He is an example we can learn a lot from.