FR. MIKE’S HOMILY FOR TUESDAY OF THE 21ST WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME CYCLE I
THEME: COME AND SEE!
BY: Fr. Mike Lagrimas
St. Michael the Archangel Parish
Diocese of Novaliches
HOMILY: Feast of St. Bartholomew
Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one about whom Moses wrote in the law, and also the prophets, Jesus son of Joseph, from Nazareth.” But Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Here is a true Israelite. There is no duplicity in him.” Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.” Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than this.” And he said to him, “Amen, amen, I say to you, you will see the sky opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”
We know so little about the apostle Bartholomew, but we can learn so much from him. What we know about him is that he came from Cana (Jn 21:2), and it is highly possible that he witnessed the first public miracle of Jesus during a wedding feast there (Jn 2:1-11). He preached the faith in Arabia and then in Armenia where he was martyred. Tradition has it that his death is particularly cruel and painful. He was flayed or skinned alive. The name Bartholomew may not be his real first name because it is a formulation that has reference to his father’s name, which is probably Talmay or Tolmai. Hence, bar Talmay or bar Tolmai (son of Talmay/Tolmai).
In the list of apostles as recorded in the Synoptic Gospels (Lk 3:14, Mt 10:3, Mk 3:18), Bartholomew is always mentioned together with or next to Philip. Perhaps this is because it was Philip who joyfully conveyed to him the news about the Messiah, and later introduced him to Jesus. In the Gospels, the name of Philip’s friend is Nathanael (‘God has given’). Traditionally, Bartholomew is identified with Nathanael.
The Gospel account we hear on this feast is about the first encounter of Nathanael with Jesus. There are some lessons we can get from this event. When Philip tells him the Messiah is from Nazareth, he finds it unacceptable – for two reasons. Nathanael knows from Scriptures that the Messiah will come from the city of David, Bethlehem. And second, it cannot be Nazareth because it is just a small and obscure village, so insignificant that not once it is mentioned in the Old Testament, and no such prophecy can be found there. That is why his remark is somewhat derisive: “Can anything good come from Nazareth?”
The first lesson here is that God’s ways are not our ways. He works in mysterious and unexpected ways. His decisions and actions cannot be conditioned by our expectations or reactions. Many times we want God to adjust according to our own expectations and prejudices. Nathanael is no different. He is convinced that Jesus cannot be the Messiah because He comes from Nazareth, not realizing that He was born in Bethlehem, the City of David.
Secondly, God, as a rule, prefers to employ human instruments instead of doing all on his own. Jesus calls Nathanael through his friend Philip, Simon Peter through his brother Andrew, and many other such examples. Oftentimes, we judge and criticize these human instruments. We even go to the extent of questioning the wisdom of God’s choices. But, St. Paul reminds us that, “God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong” (1Cor 1:27).
Jesus praised Nathanael: “Here is a true Israelite. There is no duplicity in him.” Jesus praised Nathanael for his honesty in speaking his mind out. There is, however, another interpretation of this remark. Most likely, Jesus is making a friendly joke, teasing Nathanael in response to his sarcastic comment about Nazareth. He is making him realize the mistake of judging a person based on cultural or historical background.
Finally, we must not be satisfied with the words coming from others. That is why Philip’s answer to Nathanael’s question is an invitation: “Come and see!” Someone else’s testimony is important, for, in fact, our Christian faith is the fruit of the proclamation and preaching of countless witnesses. However, our knowledge of Jesus should come from our personal relationship with Him. The Samaritan woman at the well is a good illustration. After her conversation with Jesus, she told her townmates about Him. But after personally seeing and hearing Jesus, the people told the woman, “We no longer believe because of your word; for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Savior of the world” (Jn 4:42).
This is precisely what happened with Nathanael. After personally encountering Jesus, he comes up with a profound profession of faith: “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel!” And Jesus rewards him with a solemn promise: “You will see greater things than this.” And using a text from Daniel 7:13, He said: “And I say to you, you will see the sky opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”
Fr. Mike Lagrimas
St. Michael the Archangel Parish
Diocese of Novaliches