20th Thursday in Ordinary time
Feast of St. Bartholomew
Revelation 21: 9b – 14; Ps 145; John 1: 1 – 49b
Little is know of St. Bartholomew with certainty; his name, which means ‘son of Tolmai’, appears in the list of the 12 Apostles in the Synoptic Gospels and Acts. Some identify him with Nathanael of St. John’s Gospel and it is believed that St. Bartholomew preached in India and Armenia and suffered martyrdom by being flayed alive and then beheaded.
In Butler’s Lives of the Saints – there is this: “His legendary loss of his skin made him the patron of tanners” – there’s something rather gruesome in that unusual honor!
In the encounter between Jesus and Nathanael, I believe there is an insight into the dynamic of grace. It is interesting in this passage that the verb ‘see’ comes up 6 times. It is more than just a superficial seeing; it is a perception of depth. Jesus sees into Nathanael and Nathanael hears Jesus praise: “Here is a true child of Israel. There is no duplicity in him.” Nathanael, deeply touched sees into Jesus: “Rabbi, You are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.” In this sacred encounter, this moment of grace there is invitation and receptivity.
Jesus, by His words, is inviting this good man into a fellowship, a communion, into discipleship and Nathanael, by his confession, is receptive to this grace – so unexpected, so transforming. But the exchange does not end there. There is always the supreme generosity of God’s grace so that this man who first said, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” – now from Jesus hears a promise of good beyond all telling, “Amen, Amen, I say to you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”
Nathanael, whose name is interpreted ‘gift of God’, finds himself extraordinarily gifted, blessed in his life journey and invited into an eternity of seeing.
God, the Divine Inviter, in mercy and love reaches out to us because he sees into us – He sees each one of us, no matter what our sins, failures, as His son, his daughter – He cannot not desire to grace us into communion, into discipleship; it is the nature of God to love, to invite. We, on our part, are always receivers and that is our nature. Is this not a way of saying that we are made for each other – did not God have this in mind when He created us?
God invites and surely with incomprehensible passion He pleads, “Please, come!” Please, receive!”