Feat of St. Bartholomew, Apostle
(Revelation 21:9b-14; John 1:45-51)
On the Feast of St. Bartholomew, Apostle, we hear a gospel story about Nathanael! It is not an oversight. On the lists of apostles in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, the name Nathanael is absent but the name Bartholomew appears. This Bartholomew is always paired on these lists with the apostle Philip. In John’s gospel there is no mention of Bartholomew, but there is the story of Nathanael, a friend of Philip. It is logical then to assume that Nathanael and Bartholomew is the same person. Also, Bartholomew appears to be a surname since “bar” in Hebrew means “son of” which makes some conclude that the celebration today is more properly “the Feast of Nathanael Bartholomew.”
As interesting as the apostle’s name may be, we commemorate him today for something more. He proclaims Jesus “the Son of God and King of Israel.” At the end of John’s gospel Thomas calls Jesus “my Lord and my God.” But he will have the advantage of seeing him after the resurrection. Nathanael’s insight comes from his being, as Jesus says, “a true child of Israel,” that is one who has faithfully waited for the Lord.
As Nathanael Bartholomew and all true Israelites waited for the coming of the Messiah, so we and all true Christians wait for him to return. After two millennia we might feel frustrated if there were not evidence that he is close at hand. Most significantly, Jesus is present to us in the Eucharist from which we receive spiritual nourishment and moral guidance. We still want him to reappear in human form to tell us plainly secrets about ourselves as he does Nathanael in the gospel.