Today we celebrate the feast of St. Bartholomew the Apostle. The astute observer recognizes that Jesus in fact did not call anyone named Bartholomew, but our tradition tells us that Bartholomew is in fact Nathanael, whose calling is the subject of the Gospel for today. God has a very common practice of changing people’s names when they come into their true identity. Abram becomes Abraham, Sarai becomes Sarah, Jacob becomes Israel, Simon becomes Peter, Saul becomes Paul, and so on. It is very likely that the same thing happened to Bartholomew. St. John tells us after all in John 21:24, “there are also many other things which Jesus did; were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.”
These are beautiful readings by which we get to celebrate Bartholomew. Something struck me from each of the readings, but I think I’ll focus on the relationship between the Psalm and the Gospel. “Your friends make known, O Lord, the glorious splendor of your Kingdom.” Those who know Jesus and love Him can’t help but tell others about Him. That’s exactly how Nathanael came to know Jesus. Philip shared the good news of the messiah’s arrival with Nathanael. There’s a funny back and forth, but eventually Philip takes the next step of walking with Nathanael to Jesus. What an example for us! It’s not enough for us to say the name Jesus. It’s not enough for us to know Jesus. As the Psalm says, “your friends make known the glorious splendor of your Kingdom.” If we are His friends, we will make known the Kingdom and we will walk with others on their journey.
When Nathanael comes to meet Jesus they have an interesting conversation as well. Nathanael is still skeptical of this Jesus character. But then Jesus says, “before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree” and Nathanael has a total change of heart. So what happened here? I once read somewhere (not sure if it’s entirely true) that it was common practice for Jews to pray and study under fig trees (or another special spot). Many believe that Nathanael was so struck by Jesus’s statement because it indicated that Jesus knew Nathanael’s heart, that He listened to his prayers. Jesus demonstrated to Nathanael that He was indeed the Son of God.
How has Jesus proven Himself to you? How has He shown you His Kingship? I would encourage you to spend some time in prayer about this today. This question is especially important at times where God seems distant. It is how we check ourselves and remember all He has done for us.
-Amanda Benner, Director of Evangelization