We celebrate today the feast of St. Bartholomew, also known as Nathanael. It is said that he preached the Gospel in what we know as India and Armenia. He gave his life for Christ, tradition has it, by being skinned alive.
Today’s gospel reading talks about the moment of his call. It was Philip who first talked about “Jesus from Nazareth” to Nathanael. Nathanael’s reaction revealed his skepticism: “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” His question was actually rooted in the bad reputation of Nazareth.
We can become trapped by preconceived ideas, prejudices and stereotypes – racial, ethnic and religious. We are conditioned by first impressions and we label people quickly –which can prevent us from really knowing them. Bartholomew could have allowed himself to be stuck on prevailing prejudice against people from Nazareth. But instead he responded positively when he was told to come and see for himself this Jesus from Nazareth.
We must guard against prejudices and prejudgments about people without meeting them. Beneath every cultural label is a person with individuality, hopes and desires. Our tendency is to think in universals and stereotypes rather than to encounter individuals. Such prejudices can really damage and distort our judgments.
“You will see greater things.” The “greater things” the Lord promised Nathanael were the revelation that would unfold as he followed Jesus and witnessed his ministry. Bartholomew allowed himself to be touched by the Lord, and, thus, became a disciple of Jesus.
Our discipleship, our following of Jesus is to be rooted in our personal encounter with him. Today’s gospel calls us to come and see for ourselves –to come to know the Lord in prayer and in the Sacraments. Jesus is not just a historical person to be admired, or a religious icon to be revered, or an awesome presence far away. He is a living Lord, calling to each one of us –as he did to those first disciples. As with Bartholomew, the Lord has a lot to show us and give us.
If we are to “see greater things,” we must come and see for ourselves…we must spend more time to be in the presence of the Lord…we must listen to his words more attentively…we must follow him more closely.