“Can anything good come from Nazareth?” (Jn 1:46). Such was the initial reaction to Jesus of the man we remember today, the man who, tradition tells us, would eventually surrender his very skin in testimony to Christ.
Saint Bartholomew, also called Nathaniel, was skeptical not because of an unfair prejudice against people from Nazareth. Instead, it appears that Nathaniel momentarily had difficulty reconciling his friend Philip’s excitement over having found “the one about whom Moses wrote in the law” (Jn 1:45) with the prophecy that said the Messiah would come from a town other than Nazareth, i.e. Bethlehem (cf. Mic 5:2). But when Jesus told Nathaniel something which no ordinary man could have known about him, Nathaniel admitted that he must not be seeing the whole picture with respect to Jesus.
John’s Gospel speaks of Jesus as the one who mysteriously shows forth God’s glory as His eternal Word made flesh (Jn 1:14-16). Splendid is Christ’s divine origin and awesome, too, is the destiny of those called to share their lives with him as Christians! Today, as on other feasts of apostles, we hear words which invite us into the mission exercised by Jesus’s first companions: “Let your faithful ones bless you … making known to men your might and the glorious splendor of your Kingdom” (Ps 145: 10-11). Their profound proclamation gives rise to our faith. Faith alerts us to something exceptional at work—God’s plan to share His life with us—which normally is not detectable to our senses. Because Nathaniel remained very open to the divine gift of faith, grace moved him toward a conviction and path of life which he had not yet anticipated; faith led him to discover the glory of God where he least expected to find it. Responding to the invitation put forward thanks to God’s grace at work in the Church over the ages, may a similar breakthrough be ours.
Image: José de Ribera, Martyrdom of Saint Bartholomew