Feast of Saint Bartholomew, apostle
(Revelation 21:9b-14; John 1:45-51)
How is it that 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 the gospels according to Matthew, Mark, and Luke, the name Bartholomew always appears paired with Philip. In John’s gospel, which makes no mention of a Bartholomew, Nathanael appears as a friend of Philip. The Church, therefore, has assumed that Nathanael and Bartholomew are the same person. Also, Bartholomew may be a surname since bar in Hebrew means son of. Perhaps then the celebration today is more properly the Feast of St. Nathanael Bartholomew!
As interesting as the apostle’s name may be, we commemorate him today for something more. In today’s gospel 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 into Jesus’ identity comes from his being, as Jesus says, “a true child of Israel.” This means that he has faithfully waited for the Lord to send his servant for the redemption of His people. Now the Messiah is here, as Nathanael says, the Son and King.
As St. Nathaniel Bartholomew and all true Israelites waited for the Messiah’s coming, we and all true Christians wait for his return. We yearn for him to tell us secrets about ourselves as he does about Nathanael in the gospel today. After two millennia we would feel frustrated if there were no evidence that he is close at hand. But such testimony is available. Jesus is present to us in word and sacrament. Attentive to these, we discover who we are and where we are destined.