Today we celebrate the feast of two lesser known Apostles: Phillip and James the Less. Phillip was one of the original four with James the Greater, John, and Peter. He also tells how much it would cost Jesus to feed the five thousand; and he spoke up after the Last Supper, telling Jesus, “Show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.” James was probably called “The Less,” because he was shorter than James the brother of John.
The early Church did not see the Apostles as important because of their personal qualities. Their number twelve was important in giving Christianity a standing next to Israel which was founded on twelve patriarchs.
Our inheriting the role of Judaism meant very little to American Catholics before i970, but since readings from the Old Testament have been introduced into our Masses we have gradually developed a taste for them.
I often tell a story exemplifying our lack of appreciation for the Old Testament before 1970. I was coming down to Florida to teach Bible to high school kids, and the evening before I left Chicago for the south I had dinner with an old friend who had become an archbishop. When I told him I was going to teach Bible he said, “Stay away from the Old Testament.”
I asked Archbishop Harold Henry why should I stay away from the Old Testament, and he said, “It is nothing but a bucket of worms.”
I wasn’t much more appreciative than that; but over these forty years of Old Testament readings at morning Mass I have often found them to be more spiritually nourishing than the New Testament readings for the day.