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Feast of St. Bartholomew, Apostle
Revelation 21:9B-14
Psalm 145:10-11, 12-13, 17-18
John 1:45-51
Jesus is introduced to future-apostle Nathaniel by Philip. Nathaniel asks Jesus,
ˈCan anything good come from Nazareth?ˉ Philip invites Nathaniel to ˈcome and
seeˉ. Jesus responds with a gentle appraisal of Nathaniel ˀ calling him a true
child of Israel. Nathaniel doesn˅t understand how Christ knows who he is and
Jesus responds,
Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.ˉ
With this
Nathaniel is convinced that this man in front of him is in fact the ˈSon of Godˉ,
but Jesus exhorts him that this is nothing compared with what he will see if he
follows Him.
I have always found this to be a strange gospel. Why is Nathaniel so impressed
that Christ saw him under a fig tree? How does that reveal Christ˅s divinity to
him? Was it a hidden fig tree ˀ or perhaps it was a fig tree in a dream? Maybe
Nathaniel dreamt of meeting the Savior in just this way ˀ or is it some kind of
code? Fig trees certainly figure prominently in Jesus˅ Israel and parables.
And I get a kick out of the way Nathaniel (aka Bartholomew, apparently- ˈSon of
Ptolemyˉ ˀ thus today˅s feast day), when he is first introduced to Jesus, says,
ˈCan anything good come out of Nazareth?ˉ Fr. Jim Martin, S.J. assures us that
this was considered hysterical at the time. I can almost hear Nathaniel saying it in
a Groucho-Marx- cigar- in-mouth sort of way. Jesus must have had a good
sense of humor. I guess he still does.
This is, at least, the story of a person being called to follow Christ and called in a
way that resonates deeply with him ˀ in a way that perhaps only has significance
to him. And, I believe, this is the way God calls each of us. He calls each of us
in the way that He knows will make sense to us. To St. Paul He gives a vision of
Himself , to Blessed Mother He sends an angel, to Simon Peter He calls him in,
on and through water and to me He sent supreme assurance of eternal love.