St Bartholomew

Apostle (entered heaven in the first century)

Dear Nate,

I don’t have much time (they’ve started forcing me to do physical labor now, so my schedule is less flexible; as regards types of suffering, I kind of prefer the labor, I think, since it is less oppressive than idleness – I wonder which wins more graces), but I can’t let your last email go unanswered.  Look, you’re starting a fresh year, it’s a new chapter; don’t let regrets from the past determine your trajectory for the present. I know you’re ashamed at the many failings, imprudences, and sins from your freshman and sophomore years. That’s good, in fact. But you have confessed those; it’s water under the bridge.  Have no fear! Now you can begin again. Stay simple, focused. Don’t try to save the whole campus – leave that up to Christ. Just stay close to him and seek his will each moment. Be responsible in your studies (here is the first manifestation of his will for you right now); be conscientious and sincere in your prayer commitments; use your time well; be an example of service and true Christian charity for the underclassmen (especially the younger students in the Catholic Student Union – if they don’t find support and understanding from you, they’ll look for it elsewhere, maybe from sources that will corrupt them)… It’s simple.  Don’t let the devil make it complicated. Be like today’s saint.

Bartholomew is also called Nathanial in the Gospels.  He’s one of the Apostles who makes an early appearance (John, Chapter 1, when Philip brings him to Jesus and Jesus calls him an “Israelite without guile”, remember?) and then lays low.  It was as if all he needed was that first encounter with Jesus, when Jesus made a reference to Nathaniel’s experience under the fig tree. We still have no idea what that entailed; all we know is that when Christ mentioned it to his future apostle, Nathanial was completely amazed that the Lord knew about it, and right then and there called Jesus the King of Israel, the Savior.  Once he found Christ, once he met the Savior and discovered that Jesus knew him through and through, past and present, and still loved him and wanted him to become a disciple – that was all he needed. His life had direction and meaning and the time for hand-wringing and useless complaining was over.

Nathaniel became such an active apostle that historians lost track of him as soon as he set out to spread the good news.  After our Lord’s Ascension, he trekked east and preached in northern India and Armenia, where he met his death by being skinned alive and then beheaded (King Astyages wasn’t impressed with his eloquence, I guess).  Thus he died fulfilling Christ’s final command: “Go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19), a command that the Church ceaselessly repeats.

Why not make that your motto?  Keep you eyes to the future, to bringing the peace and goodness of Christ into the lives of those around you.  Don’t look back; leave the past in Christ’s care, and when you feel tempted to backslide, throw yourself with even more energy into the task at hand, into God’s will for you here and now.  I can guarantee that you won’t be disappointed if you do.

Your loving uncle, Eddy

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