Feast of Saint Bartholomew, Apostle – Apoc 21:9b-14; Ps 144: 10-13,17-18; John 1:45-51
The little we know of Bartholomew (a.k.a. Nathanael) includes a fascinating story in which Jesus (whom he’d never met) pays him the compliment of being a man “incapable of deceit”. Nathanael was at a loss that Jesus not only knew him and his character but had already somehow seen him “under the fig tree” — an expression that may be a euphemism for being a seeker of peace, a seeker of the kingdom of God. But I like to imagine that one day he was praying to God under a Fig tree, alone, no one could see him, and he said “God, when you send the Messiah, let him say he saw me under the fig tree.” I think it fits with Jesus telling him he was a man “incapable of deceit”; a simple man in the sense that when he got exactly what he asked for, that was good enough; he asked for a sign; he got it; and he believed. Jesus promises Nathanael greater signs, but Nathanael is satisfied with this little sign.
How often did the scribes and Pharisees test Jesus! Yet they were so twisted that they convinced themselves that Jesus was working miracles and preaching repentance for sins by the power of the devil. How many miracles did the crowds see! Yet they could not see past the signs to the reality of who Jesus is. Nathanael came to Jesus with his prejudices about people from Nazareth (“Can anything good come from that place?”); he even seems a little angry when Jesus gives him a compliment: “How do you know me?”, he says, but as soon as he receives the sign he does not mince any words: “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.”
If you feel alone facing what each day has in store, pray confidently with the psalmist, “He is close to all who call on him. . . . all who call on him from their hearts” and, full of trust, meet again the Lord who knows you.
Let us pray to St. Nathanael bar-Tholomew for the grace of simple faith. He was an Apostle and a martyr. He spent the rest of his life preaching the Gospel and died a witness to the faith, all because he believed when Jesus told him, “I saw you under the fig tree.” What does He say to you?