August 24, 2018
by Larry Gillick, S.J.
Creighton University's Deglman Center for Ignation Spirituality
click here for photo and information about the writer

Feast of Saint Bartholomew, Apostle
Lectionary: 629

Revelation 21:9b-14
Psalms 145:10-11, 12-13, 17-18
John 1:45-51

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A Renewed Personal Encounter with Jesus

Several of the Apostles are quite well-known such as Peter, James and John. In football the well-known names score points and those who silently block and tackle just do their jobs. The Apostle, Bartholomew, is just apostle. He is mentioned once in the Gospel of Matthew chapter ten as he lined up to be sent out to talk of all he had heard and to make visible what he had seen of Jesus.

Our First Reading from the Book of Revelation, is a part of the vision which the author has while looking up at the stars. He sees clusters of heavenly bodies formed into the Holy City of Jerusalem which will be the new place for the holiness of God. The vision is of Christ and His Church which has twelve gates through which the splendor of God will radiate. The names of the twelve Apostles are written on the foundation stones.

The Gospel is a picture of the second-calling.  Earlier in this first chapter, Jesus had invited two disciples of the Baptist to “Come and see.”  Now, one of them, Philip, tells Nathanael, that he, Philip, has gone and seen and that Nathanael should get up from beneath his comfortable fig tree and check things out. Being quite human, Nathanael checks out his own prophetic ideas that would tell him that nothing of importance can come from somewhere that’s a no-where like Nazareth.

Philip tells Nathanael that he would do well to “come and see.” So apparently nothing good was coming from under the fig tree either.   So the two head off, one with faith, the other with doubt.  Jesus Who had turned and seen Philip and James walking behind Him, now sees these two walking toward Him.

Jesus says a good word about Doubting Nat, that he is a good wrestler with God, an interpretation of the name for Israel. Nat is surprised that Jesus knew something about him. Nathanael takes this as a sign, and after seeing and hearing, buys into Jesus and we do not hear any more of him at all until the beginning of John’s account of the Resurrection in chapter twenty-one when the starting team decides to return to the familiar and go fishing, where of course, Jesus find them fishless.

Now you might be wondering what happened to Bartholomew. Tradition is that his name changed with time, but his life of seeing, hearing and then going out to share was the same as the other Apostles. We have had name-changes ourselves through the reception of Confirmation.  Maybe Nathanael from Cana, left his identity as scoffer and doubter and became a believer, speaker and doer.  Ah, but the faith in Jesus which he professed in the first chapter, recounting his first encounter with Jesus, was dashed by all he had seen and heard during the Passion and death of Jesus. No more fig tree, no more easy seeings and hearings.  He was going back with his fishing buddies and doing, just doing his “thing”.   Jesus will see him again and he will see and hear Jesus again.

The encouragement from today’s Readings and for our sharing in the Eucharist is deep. Faith is a way of seeing and hearing and faith needs doubts as a setting for believing. Believing plays out in doing and receiving, but never convincing. Our human desire for certainty is not always convinced even with data, logic and human experience at hand. The early Apostles, all their followers as Bishops, and we as followers embrace the very human condition which Jesus embraced, knew and kept faithful to. Seeing is not believing! Believing is a way of being seen by God, called by Jesus, and accepted by us.     

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