In the New Testament, Bartholomew is mentioned only in the lists of the apostles. Some scholars identify him with Nathanael, a man of Cana in Galilee who was summoned to Jesus by Philip. Jesus paid him a great compliment: "Here is a true Israelite. There is no duplicity in him" (John 1:47b). When Nathanael asked how Jesus knew him, Jesus said, "I saw you under the fig tree" (John 1:48b). Whatever amazing revelation this involved, it brought Nathanael to exclaim, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel" (John 1:49b). But Jesus countered with, "Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than this" (John 1:50b). Nathanael did see greater things. He was one of those to whom Jesus appeared on the shore of the Sea of Tiberias after his resurrection (see John 21:1-14). They had been fishing all night without success. In the morning, they saw someone standing on the shore though no one knew it was Jesus. He told them to cast their net again, and they made so great a catch that they could not haul the net in. Then John cried out to Peter, "It is the Lord." When they brought the boat to shore, they found a fire burning, with some fish laid on it and some bread. Jesus asked them to bring some of the fish they had caught, and invited them to come and eat their meal. John relates that although they knew it was Jesus, none of the apostles presumed to inquire who he was. This, John notes, was the third time Jesus appeared to the apostles.
Nathanael did see greater things. He was one of those to whom Jesus appeared on the shore of the Sea of Tiberias after his resurrection (see John 21:1-14). They had been fishing all night without success. In the morning, they saw someone standing on the shore though no one knew it was Jesus. He told them to cast their net again, and they made so great a catch that they could not haul the net in. Then John cried out to Peter, "It is the Lord."
When they brought the boat to shore, they found a fire burning, with some fish laid on it and some bread. Jesus asked them to bring some of the fish they had caught, and invited them to come and eat their meal. John relates that although they knew it was Jesus, none of the apostles presumed to inquire who he was. This, John notes, was the third time Jesus appeared to the apostles.
Bartholomew or Nathanael? We are confronted again with the fact that we know almost nothing about most of the apostles. Yet the unknown ones were also foundation stones, the 12 pillars of the new Israel whose 12 tribes now encompass the whole earth. Their personalities were secondary (without thereby being demeaned) to their great office of bearing tradition from their firsthand experience, speaking in the name of Jesus, putting the Word made flesh into human words for the enlightenment of the world. Their holiness was not an introverted contemplation of their status before God. It was a gift that they had to share with others. The Good News was that all are called to the holiness of being Christ's members, by the gracious gift of God.
The simple fact is that humanity is totally meaningless unless God is its total concern. Then humanity, made holy with God's own holiness, becomes the most precious creation of God.
"Like Christ himself, the apostles were unceasingly bent upon bearing witness to the truth of God. They showed special courage in speaking 'the word of God with boldness' (Acts 4:31) before the people and their rulers. With a firm faith they held that the gospel is indeed the power of God unto salvation for all who believe.... They followed the example of the gentleness and respectfulness of Christ" (Vatican II, Declaration on Religious Freedom, 11).
Daily Prayer - 2015-08-24
Dear Lord as I come to you today
"I am free."
My soul longs for your presence, Lord.
The Word of God
Feast of Saint Bartholomew, Apostle
Reading 1 Rv 21:9b-14
The angel spoke to me, saying,
Responsorial Psalm PS 145:10-11, 12-13, 17-18
R. (12) Your friends make known, O Lord, the glorious splendor of your Kingdom.
Alleluia Jn 1:49b
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel Jn 1:45-51
Philip found Nathanael and told him,
Some thoughts on today's scripture
Philip does not waste time in arguing with Nathaniel. "Come and see," he says. Lord, I pray that I might lead others to you by the way I live my life.
I begin to talk to Jesus about the piece of scripture I have just read.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit,
Saint Bartholomew, Apostle (Feast)
Here is a true child of Israel. (John 1:47)
Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa is one of the most famous paintings in history. Art historians have analyzed it for generations. But most people don't want to study the painting—they just want to look at it. For da Vinci captured the uniqueness and beauty of his subject in a way that few artists ever have. You could say he painted the "real" Mona Lisa!
Notice how Jesus was also like an artist here. He saw Nathanael—also known as Bartholomew, the saint of today's feast—under a fig tree. But Jesus saw Nathanael not just as he looked from the outside: he saw into his heart. He understood that Nathanael was without "duplicity," a forthright man who didn't care about other people's opinions (John 1:47). He also saw Nathanael's future. He knew that Nathanael would become his disciple and would see the fulfillment of Messianic prophecy. He would know Jesus not just as king, but as Savior and Lord as well.
God also sees us, just the way a careful viewer sees the Mona Lisa. He sees inside our hearts and knows our best qualities: whether we are sincere, like Nathanael, or compassionate or encouraging or filled with zeal to spread the gospel. Yes, he also sees those areas that need work, maybe our selfishness or our pride. But he sees these not as permanent flaws but as parts of his painting that still need some work. No matter what is there, he still considers us his masterwork, his pride and joy.
But be careful not to think of yourself as just a piece of canvas that God is painting on. You have the amazing privilege of working with him. You have a hand in the painting of this masterpiece as you cooperate with him. You can decide how it will turn out! Maybe you'll shine with the light of compassion for the needy. Maybe you will manifest deep faithfulness in trying situations. Maybe you'll exhibit the modest smile of a prayerful, peaceful spirit. So don't listen to any harsh, condemning voice! You are God's "good work," and he will continue to guide you until that work is done (Philippians 1:6).
"Lord, you are the potter—but I am much more than clay. Help me to love your people with all my heart, mind, and strength."