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Something Good from Nazareth: Weekly Message for 08-24-2021
Dear Friends in Christ,
Today is the Feast of the Apostle St. Bartholomew, also known as Nathanael (cf. John 1:45-51). A few years ago, while living in Rome, my vacation plans fell through, so I decided to do a “staycation” and see some of my favorite spots in the Eternal City and some spots I’d heard of that were off the beaten track. One morning I took a walk along the Tiber River, which winds through the city, at spots close to St. Peter’s, and I decided to visit a small island in the river known as the Isola Tiberina (Tiber Island). It had two walking bridges, so no swimming or boats were required.
There was a basilica on the island, and I discovered that the body of St. Bartholomew was there. It was only after visiting and returning home that I remembered I was visiting within a day of his feast day. After Pentecost, it is not clear where St. Bartholomew shared the Gospel, but the ancient historian Eusebius says he worked in India at one point, and tradition says he was martyred in Greater Armenia (with a couple of conflicting gruesome methods of execution reported in ancient accounts). The basilica was commissioned by the Emperor Otto III in 998, so St. Bartholomew’s body has rested there for over a thousand years.
John points out in his Gospel (cf. John 1:45-51) that Nathanael (Bartholomew) didn’t have a high impression of anyone who came from Nazareth (“Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”). He was sincere and didn’t mince words. When Philip invited him to come and see, he had the faith to see for himself whether Our Lord was the Messiah. Nathanael did not interpret Jesus’ evaluation of him as flattery (“Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!”). He was surprised to find that Jesus seemed to know him, not just by surface details, but how he was from the inside. Our Lord wasn’t ribbing him either for the comment he’d made about Nazareth. His words struck a chord in Nathanael, and Nathanael knew something new was in store.
When Our Lord reveals that he saw Nathanael under the fig tree it seems Nathanael receives a sign of something for which he was searching. What was he doing under the fig tree? Was he praying about what God wanted him to do in his life? Was he asking for some sort of sign? Whatever it was, Nathanael found what he was looking for in Jesus and professed his faith in him as the Messiah. Our Lord responded by promising him that even greater revelations were in store for him.
The story of St. Bartholomew teaches us what Our Lord has in store for us if we have faith in him. He wants to resolve those doubts and questions in our hearts and to help us find what we are really seeking. He wants to show us that he knows more about us than we know about ourselves. Something good has come from Nazareth.
May the Lord help you begin a journey of greater and greater revelations through following him.
Father Nikola Derpich, L.C.
Maximizing the Mass