August 24, 2019 – Saturday: Feast of St. Bartholomew, Apostle
A reading from the Gospel according to John (1:45-51)
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 child of Israel.
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 heaven opened and the angels of God
ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”
Have you been judged because of some particular opinions about you and your background? Jesus was also a subject of such prejudice by some people. Because of his background as coming from a remote town called Nazareth and from a family who was unheard of in the whole of Jerusalem, this made others to belittle Jesus.
The gospel story that we have today tells us about Nathanael, who is also traditionally identified as Bartholomew, who seemed to demean the background of Jesus. His friend Phillip testified about the presence of the Messiah whom Moses wrote about in the law and prophesied by the prophets. However, the skeptical Nathanael asked, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” For Nathanael, it was too much to believe that the Messiah would come from this insignificant town. This was not his expectation. Thus, for Philip to tell him about it, was simply ridiculous by Nathanael.
However, despite the discriminatory behavior of Nathanael, he was persuaded by his friend Philip to come and see for himself Jesus. To come and see meant that Nathanael whose name means, the gift of God, opened up himself for Jesus. It was a welcoming attitude of allowing the Lord to touch him.
And certainly, Jesus was able to touch Nathanael because the man allowed Jesus. Jesus knew Nathanael even before they met. The Jewish metaphor used by Jesus to Nathanael, “I saw you under the fig tree,” refers to studying the Torah or the Law. This means that Jesus, the God made flesh, have met Nathanael already. For Nathanael to study the Law of Moses, it was an encounter with the Lord. But at this moment, what was revealed to him was not anymore letters but flesh and physical presence of the Lord.
And this surprised Nathanael and made him to drop his discriminations and doubts about Jesus. However, Jesus promised him that he “will see greater things than that.”
Indeed, when we are able to encounter the Lord without any fears or anxieties, we too will surely be surprised of the greater things that we shall witness. God has so much more prepared for us. If only we are able to let go and drop our fears and let God reveal Himself in our life, we shall see and discover so many things, many wonderful things.
Therefore, the invitation for us today is to allow ourselves to have an encounter with the Lord. This very encounter will not take place in a heavenly ambiance but in its most ordinary way. As Nathanael encountered the Lord in his studies of the Law and through his friend Phillip, allow also the Lord to touch you in your studies, in your work, in the things that you love most, among the people you meet every day, among and through your loved ones and friends.
May this opportunity of encounter with Jesus make us more resolved in our faith in him and in our commitment to God’s call for us today. Hinaut pa.
Jom Baring, CSsR