Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Feast of St. Bartholomew, apostle

(Revelation 21:9b-14; John 1:45-51)

As with most of the twelve disciples whom we recognize as apostles, we know little about Bartholomew. Since in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, he is paired with Philip, some Biblical experts hold that he is the same as Nathanael whom the Gospel of John also associates with Philip. Nathanael, as the gospel today relates, proclaims the identity of Jesus much like Simeon at the presentation of Jesus in the Temple: the long-awaited Messiah who will accomplish the redemption of Israel.

Even though Bartholomew’s biography remains largely obscure, any one of us would trade places with him. After all, he saw and even touched salvation in person! That is, he followed Jesus first-hand, heard his voice, felt the warmth of his hand. It is taken for granted that the apostles suffered martyrdom. They could do so gladly, however, because they knew well that the one to whom they testified was worth their lives.

We cannot know Jesus as the twelve apostles did, but nevertheless he allows us access to himself. His words remain in the gospel, his flesh and blood are ingested in the Eucharist, and his Spirit is felt in the love Christians demonstrate. In faith we know that Jesus is present to us, and drawing strength from him, we like the apostles may give witness to him by dying to ourselves in service to others.