Friday, 24 August 2018 : Feast of St. Bartholomew, Apostle (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate together the great feast day of one of the Twelve Apostles of Our Lord Jesus Christ, namely that of St. Bartholomew the Apostle. As our Gospel passage mentioned today about Nathanael, one of Christ’s Twelve Apostles, it was often attributed that St. Bartholomew and Nathanael were the same person. He was one of the most intelligent ones among Christ’s disciples.

At first, he was also skeptical and did not believe at first that the Lord Jesus Christ could have been the Messiah that the people of Israel had been waiting for, as the Scriptures in the Old Testament and the prophets did not write about Nazareth being the place where the Messiah would come from. The same attitude was also actually echoed by the Pharisees and the chief priests, who doubted Jesus over the same reason.

But the Lord showed the truth about Himself and revealed the greater extent of His divine wisdom that far surpassed the intellect and wisdom of man. This has so profoundly affected St. Bartholomew that he devoted himself to the Lord from then on, becoming one of His disciples and appointed by Him as one of the Twelve Apostles. He was called to a greater purpose, that is to be part of God’s saving work among His people.

In our first reading today, we listened to the passage from the latter part of the Book of Revelations of St. John, which told us about the coming of the new Holy City of God, the New Jerusalem, coming down from heaven, from God. In the vision of St. John, he saw the magnificent city as the symbol of God’s everlasting presence among His people at the end of time, when sin and death will be dealt a total and final defeat.

And in that vision, St. John saw twelve thrones as the seats prepared for the Apostles of the Lord, as a fulfilment of what the Lord had told them, that they would even judge the people of God. They would be the ones seated at the side of the Lord, as His most trusted confidants and assistants, for their great faith and commitment to the continuation of the good works He had begun among His people.

But the Apostles did not have an easy life at all, when they were still living in this world, brothers and sisters in Christ. As a matter of fact, they suffered greatly from the persecutions against the faithful by the Roman authorities, as the ones who were the leaders and as main pillars of the Church. But they faced all of the challenges and persecutions with faith, and remained true to their calling and mission to the very end.

All of the Twelve Apostles save for St. John, including St. Bartholomew, suffered martyrdom for the faith and the Lord. It was told by Church tradition that St. Bartholomew went to faraway places such as India and Armenia to evangelise the people living in those regions, suffering persecutions from all those who refused to listen to the truth and those who rejected the Lord.

St. Bartholomew was martyred in Armenia, defending his faith to the very end, persecuted while ministering to the faithful. It was told that the king of Armenia himself was converted by the works that St. Bartholomew and St. Jude, another Apostle, had done in Armenia. They helped to establish the Christian faith and the Church in Armenia, which persevered to this very day after many generations of martyrs and the faithful.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, having heard of the great courage and the hard work of the Apostles, are we not stirred in our hearts to be faithful just as the Apostles had been? And we have to realise that each and every one of us are the successors of the Apostles, as we have to continue all the works that the Apostles had begun, in our own world today.

Therefore, let us all renew our commitment, and do our very best to live up to the faith which the holy Apostles, St. Bartholomew and his companions had shown us. Let us all be exemplary in our own actions, that, living by our faith and doing what the Lord has commanded us to do, we may also follow in the footsteps of the Apostles, to call more people to the Lord and save many more souls still living in darkness and ignorance of God.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He continue to strengthen our faith and resolve, to live faithfully in accordance with His ways, day after day. May He bless us all and continue to watch over us, His followers and disciples, that we too may be like His Apostles, Holy Apostles St. Bartholomew and others. Amen.