Feast of St. Bartholomew

John 1: 45-51
Rev 21:9b-14 / Ps 145:10-13,17-18

Can anything good come from Nazareth?
(John 1:46)

Live a life of humility,
Cast off all kinds of prejudice;
When we hear God’s call, “Follow me”
‘We shall see greater things than this.’

Philip found Nathanael (Bartholomew) and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus, the son of Joseph, from Nazareth.” But Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Philip answered, “Come and see.” When Jesus saw Nathanael coming, He said of him, “Here is a true Israelite. There is no duplicity in him.” Nathanael said to Him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree, before Philip called you.” Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel.” Jesus said, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You shall see greater things than this.” He then added, “I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” (John 1:45-51)

Reflection

Prejudice is one of the most common flaws of human nature. Our orientation or social upbringing often influences us to categorize certain individuals according to their tribe, color of skin, educational background or place of origin. The apostle Nathanael was an upright and intelligent man, and yet, on impulse, his immediate response to Philip when informed about Jesus was, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” True to His humble nature, Jesus did not rebuke his biased attitude; instead, He even praised him, calling him a “true Israelite, no duplicity in him.”

However, I cannot help but suspect that there might be a touch of sarcasm in those words – “true Israelite” and “no duplicity in him.” The original “Israel” was Jacob, but in his duplicity (with his mother’s help), he robbed his brother Esau of his birthright.

Nathanael was clearly touched by the power of Jesus’ words, because he could only ask Jesus lamely, “How do you know me?” When Jesus answered him, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you,” he was all the more astounded because he probably was under a fig tree at the time, and Jesus was nowhere in sight. And so he professed his belief in Jesus as the Son of God. To this, our Lord replied, “You will see greater things than this. . . the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” And again, this image referred to Jacob, in an allusion to the ladder of heaven in Genesis 28:12.

When a friend invited us to join the Brotherhood of Jesus, we hesitated at first, and probably said, like Nathanael, “What good would come out of it?” And he probably replied, “Just come and see. If you don’t like it, you can always walk away.” And we have stayed on for the last 17 years or so. Have we come to regret staying on? Of course not. In fact, I think we have we seen greater things that have made us stay.

Thank You, Father God, for the exemplary life of Your saints, including St. Bartholomew whose feast day we commemorate today. May his martyrdom inspire us to be brave and bold in helping build Your kingdom here on earth, and never to be discouraged by any trials or adversities. Amen.

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