St. Bartholomew: Living the Purity of the Gospel

This week, we remember the great faith of the saints, recalling their example of virtue and  desire to fully live  the Gospel message. 

By: Erin Healy

Archbishop Piero Marini, left, master of the liturgical ceremonies, bows to the casket of Pope John Paul II during the Pope's funeral Friday, April 8, 2005, in St. Peter's Square. White House photo by Eric Draper

If you remember watching the funeral Mass of Pope Saint John Paul II, you almost certainly remember the iconic moment when the book of Gospels – which were placed open and laid upon his casket – was hit by a gust of wind which caused the pages to flutter wildly.  Many saw this as symbolic of how Pope Saint John Paul II lived the Gospel message throughout his life, always pointing those around him to Christ.

Today, we celebrate the Memorial of another great man who lived his life in the same way, Saint Bartholomew. We know him has one of the Twelve Apostles and as a martyr of the Church.  And, although he was referred to very little – only six times – in the New Testament, we are able to see many similarities between these two great saints.

Mentioned in the Gospel of John (1:45-51), he is invited to ‘Come and see’ by his friend Philip and was introduced to Jesus with the words:

“Here is a true child of Israel. There is no duplicity in him.”

Bartholomew – or, Nathanael as he is also known as in the Gospels – replied:

“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.”

He could’ve easily pressed our Lord further on his knowledge, asked himself “What’s in this for me?” or just walked away. After all, this was their first introduction. Instead, Nathanael recognized Christ and joined him as an Apostle.

Today, it can be rather easy to find ourselves tempted by what Philip refers to as duplicity. We are presented with opportunities to be deceitful – or duplicitous – in our words and actions each day.

Are we attending Mass in Thanksgiving for our Lord and in remembrance of His Passion or are we just going to keep up an appearance of piety or to simply avoid feeling guilty? Are we working late (again) to ensure a future and to provide for our family or are we just seeking recognition and prestige for our own name?

Saint Bartholomew, after accepting an invitation as an Apostle of Christ, spent his life preaching the Gospel (much like Pope Saint John Paul II) – even to the point of death. Depicted in Michelangelo’s Final Judgement holding a knife and his own skin, Bartholomew is a great example of the beatitude:

“Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God” (Matthew 5:8).

He saw Christ, chose to follow Him, dedicated his life – both actions and words – to the proclamation of the Gospel and, ultimately, gave his own life in order to point others to Him. May we, with the example of the great saints before us, accept and follow Christ with pure hearts and motives, always directing others to Him and the promises of eternal life.

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