On the third day of the week, Capernaum Square was very colorful and raucous. It was market day. People from the neighboring towns came to trade their wares, like fruit, textiles, honey-flavored cakes….
Philip: Combs, rings, chokers for sale here! Necklaces and lozenges!!!… Wedding rings, earrings for married women, bracelets for widows!!!!…. Amulets!… Shoes, slippers, slippers, shoes! Buy now, ’cuz I’ll be gone in a minute!….
Our friend Philip would always go to the market of Capernaum with his wares. He wore an old and worn-out yellow striped turban on his head and could be seen pushing a dilapidated cart full of utensils…. With the shrill sound of his horn, Philip was the noisiest man in the square. The women of Capernaum were his good clients. Although he always cheated them on prices, he managed to sell them new pieces of junk every week. He was always surrounded by women, haggling and rummaging through his wares…
Philip: Here, take a look at this mirror, Mam! You look a lot prettier here! No more than five cents! Small mirrors, big mirrors! I am willing to trade in one new mirror for two old ones…! Mary, Mary, I brought you some rouge. Here, young lady, take it! Okay, you may pay me next week! Hey, hey, give that back to me. Don’t touch it, it’s delicate! Herbs, I also have good herbs! …a hot concoction of these herbs straight from the Orient!
Salome: Hey, Philip!
Philip: Yes, Mam Salome! What’s up? Do you want a comb or some perfume? Come, take a sniff of this, it was brought from Arabia…
Salome: Spare me, please. I’m too old for that. Look, you can come to the house, if you care to have some hot soup.
Philip: Blazes, you never disappoint me, Mam Salome!… As a matter of fact, I am hungry!
Salome: Of course, you devil! After all this shouting and screaming, who wouldn’t end up as famished as you are!
Philip: Why don’t you take these needles with you, in exchange for the soup!
Salome: Young man, I’m doing this because I love to. You don’t have to give me anything in return. I’m gonna tell you when I need something from you… So, this Mary Magdalene bought some rouge from you! What a girl!
Philip: Mam, I treat my customers equally. I must be of service to everyone….
Salome: Her presence in the village has caused quite a stir among the men. What with those swaggering hips!… and… what a scent! May a strong wind snatch her away from here!
Philip: The soup is really very good, Mam! Say, where are John and James?
Salome: Well, where else do you expect them to be? Sweating it out to earn a living… There’s no market day for fishermen like them. Each day is just like any other for them: to be with their boats, sails, and nets… day in and day out…
Philip: So there’s nothing new around here, Mam Salome?
Salome: Well, there’s something new, alright. Do you know that somebody from Nazareth is in town? My children met him in the Jordan…. Weren’t you there, too, to see the prophet, John? Probably you know him….
Philip: From Nazareth? ….That must be Jesus, the Moreno, and the storyteller.
Salome: Exactly. He can tell very funny stories. For many nights, he fascinated everyone with his stories… He seems like a nice man. He’s staying with us here.
Philip: Where’s he now?
Salome: Right now, he must be repairing the roof of the house of Rufina’s neighbor.
Philip: Good heavens! I would like to greet him. I’m going there now!
Salome: Finish your soup first. Here, take some olives and a piece of bread…..
Philip: You are right, Mam Salome. I should fill up my stomach first. My friends can wait. Besides, I’m sure you’ll like these necklaces that I’ll show you. They are made of red stones. I’m giving them at a cheaper price!
Philip: Hey, Jesus!… Jesus!
Jesus: Oh, it’s you, Philip!
Philip: Jesus, Moreno, how happy I am to see you!
Jesus: I’ve long wanted to see you, big head. I was told that you were coming to Capernaum today.
Philip: Today is market day, and I came to sell my wares, as always.
Jesus: Where did you leave your cart?
Philip: In Salome’s house. She told me you were here. I haven’t seen Zebedee’s sons yet, neither have I seen Andrew and Peter…. Well, what are you doing here?
Jesus: As you can see, I’m doing some house repairs, so I earn a few dinars. Look how rotten these pieces of wood have become. They can fall off anytime.
Philip: Salome said that you were going to stay. Why? Are you bored in Nazareth? No, don’t say it. I understand. Life is so quiet there. I will never go there to sell my wares. No one would ever buy them.
Jesus: There is little money there, you know.
Philip: So you have come to join us here. Welcome to Capernaum, Jesus! How happy I am. That means we shall be seeing each other more often. I come here every week…
Jesus: The truth is, I didn’t come here because I was bored in Nazareth. I like it there, really. I like it here too…, but… I came because….
Philip: Because you fell in love with a girl from Capernaum! That’s okay, I understand. You know, time is passing, and as one gets old, one thinks of having one’s own home, a wife and children… Man, am I so happy! Really, I am…!
Jesus: No, Philip, it is not because of that. Now, you listen to what I’m gonna tell you.
Philip: Well, tell me, what is it?
Jesus: Yesterday, I had a good discussion with the sons of Zebedee, together with Andrew and Peter. You see, we’d like to do something. They have silenced John, the prophet, but we still have our tongues. We can continue talking to the people, like he used to do, proclaiming the Kingdom of God… To do this, we must all be united….
Philip: Hey, what are you talkin’ about? John was capable of doin’ it, what with his long hair and thunderous voice…. but, we, we cannot do it…. I think you’ve all gone crazy!
Jesus: No, Philip. We’re not crazy, and we must do something. We must not wait for other people to do it. In a short time, there will be many of us. God is on our side.
Philip: Well, I’m happy about that. If you have come to introduce some changes, then, I’m happy to hear that, and I wish you good luck.
Jesus: The thing is, we’re all counting on you….
Philip: What? You’re counting on me? Me?….
Jesus: That’s right. What’s so strange about that?
Philip: But I’m no good at this, Jesus. The only thing I know is my trade. Of course, I’d like this country to have justice… But if I myself cannot move forward, how can I make others do the same…?
Jesus: We can do something, Philip, you will see….
Philip: I’m a stupid man, Jesus. I don’t know anything.
John, the Baptizer had studied the Holy Scriptures and he knew what he was saying. But, how can we do the same? Well, I leave it to the rest. I don’t interfere in whatever they say… You see, I don’t read or write. I used to listen to the Scriptures in the synagogue when I was a little boy, but I was so bored and I didn’t learn anything. I’m a good for nothing in this regard. Just leave me alone with the horn and my cart…
Jesus: But we are all the same bunch of ignorant men, Philip. Who is Peter, anyway, and James? And who am I?… I remember a psalm that says: “God makes great things with the most humble and with the little children.”
Philip: Then you are better than I, because you remember something of the Scripture… Tell me, what do you mean to tell me by those words?
Jesus: That in the eyes of God, the people who are most worthy are the insignificant ones, like us, like you. We need you in our group, Philip.
Philip: Well, that’s so nice to hear… but, please, leave me alone with my trade! I don’t want any hassle! I tell you, I’m a good for nothing.
Jesus: What about Moses? Didn’t he form our land with a bunch of filthy slaves who didn’t even have a piece of land they could call their own?
Philip: Well, yes, that’s true. Even if they had, I would say that….
Jesus: They were hopeful and they wanted to fight. That’s all, Philip, and that’s what we have now: hope and the will to fight.
Philip: You’re right there…. but you haven’t convinced me yet! I have such a big stubborn head!
Jesus: Who was King David, Philip? A shepherd, a poor guy. And who was Jeremiah, the prophet? A boy who could not even speak. What about the prophet Amos? A peasant tilling his land when he was called by God… God chooses the weak, the poor, so that the wise would not become proud… Listen, you stubborn one… we want you to be in our group. We are all a bunch of shabby and ignorant men, that is true, but together, we can accomplish something!
Philip: But, if I get involved in this, then, what will happen to my business? How will I go to the Jordan and baptize people in the river? What about my cart?
Jesus: We don’t have to go that far, man. The people went to the Jordan to be baptized, in order to prepare the way for the Liberator of Israel. Now, we must do something else, I don’t know what….
Philip: The only thing I can do is go from town to town advertising my merchandise… That’s all…
Jesus: Then we can go from town to town proclaiming what the Lord has in store for us… Right, that’s a very good idea of yours.
Philip: Man, in that case, then, take me in the group… I might even be able to advertise my wares… As we proclaim God’s plans to the people… I might as well take advantage and sell some necklaces! Now you have convinced me, Moreno!
Jesus: I’m gonna leave this work for a while so that we can look for our other companions….
Philip: Would you know where they are now?
Jesus: They must be by the wharf. Come on, Philip, follow me…
In a short while, on the wharf…
Peter: So you’re in this, too, Philip?
Philip: Jesus has sweet talked me into it, and I’ve taken the bait.
John: He must’ve spoken a lot to be able to fill up your enormous head with sweet words!
James: Listen very well, Philip. We’re involved in a very serious matter. We must do this on our own, and we can’t count on the help of the zealots, get me?… We have to be brave, do you hear me?
Philip: I will do the best I can, James. Don’t scare me now. I just told Jesus that I enjoy going from town to town, and with my horn and cart, I can take the opportunity to….
James: What has your horn got to do with our plans?
John: It’s alright, James. Philip’s a little stupid, you know.
Philip: Oh, yeah? So I’m stupid, huh? I dare you say that again, come on…..
Peter: That’s enough, Philip. You wanna join us or not?
Philip: I’ve already committed myself, Peter, and I am not leaving. If you kick me out, I’ll give you each a nice punch.
Philip, who came from Bethsaida, of Galilee, joined our group. But then, we did not know where to begin, nor what to do. We were only six. We had only hope and the will to fight.
There is little information in the Gospel about Philip, the apostle. He was from Bethsaida, a village situated in the northern part of the lake, by the eastern shore of the Jordan, which was not part, politically speaking, of Galilee. “Bethsaida” means “house of fish.” The brothers Andrew and Peter were born there too. According to the story, Philip was a hawker, an ambulant vendor of junk. This was a common occupation during the period and was classified as “despicable,” together with several other popular occupations, as they were degrading to those who engaged in them. One of the reasons why being a hawker was humiliating or degrading was his association with women, on account of the nature of his work. As such, he was always suspected of committing immoral acts. Those whose manner of earning a living was considered as such were not given public positions.
The Gospel shows again and again that not even the laws of the land, its norms, traditions and the deeply-rooted customs of the people could stop Jesus, from excluding anyone; like God, who does not look at appearances (1 S 16:7). God reveals Himself once again in Jesus as the God who chooses the humble in order to shame the arrogant – who are actually nothing – in order to undermine the values of presumptuous people (1 Cor 1:26-29). God’s chosen one, his son, Jesus of Nazareth, is a poor and an uncultured peasant. Those whom Jesus has chosen are the poor, of the lower social class, the “anawim” of Israel. The Church of Jesus is called to be a community of the poor, a place for freedom and unity where people do not worship money nor give importance to social titles or positions.
As Jesus reminded Philip, Israel was formed as a people, out of a small group of starving slaves, beaten down by hard work, who entrusted their hope in God and in Moses. When the poor awaken and organize themselves, when they begin to act without being humbled by their limitations, draw support from God and are strengthened by their unity, God places Himself in their midst. In the history of people’s liberation, the Lord is an ally of the humble and stands up for them, because it is through action, commitment and hope of the people that the Lord transforms history.