Monday, 24 August 2020 : Feast of St. Bartholomew, Apostle (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the great feast of one of the Twelve Apostles, namely St. Bartholomew the Apostle, also associated and known as Nathanael in the Gospels, just as we heard in our Gospel today on the encounter and interaction between the Lord Jesus and Nathanael and how God called him and made him one of His disciples after persuading him to believe in the truth.

As ‘bar’ is the word used in the Aramaic language, the language spoken at the time of Jesus’ ministry, to denote the person being the ‘son of’, just as in Simon bar Jonah, or Simon son of John, thus, St. Bartholomew’s name might have been historically Nathanael bar Talmai or the ‘son of Ptolemy’, Ptolemy being the royal name for Greeks living in Egypt then, and which therefore could have pointed out Nathanael, or St. Bartholomew as the son of a Hellenised Jew, who might have taken many Greek influences including name from the Egyptian Greeks. Later on then, Nathanael would be better remembered by his surname, and therefore, as St. Bartholomew.

And as we heard how God called him into His service, following which, Nathanael, as St. Bartholomew, dedicated his life to God, we can see how unlike many of the other Apostles, St. Bartholomew as a possible member of the Hellenised Jew tend to be better educated and likely more literate than many of the Apostles as many of the people at that time were illiterate, unable to write or read.

St. Bartholomew showed great knowledge of the Scripture, as he even knew about the fact that the Scriptures did not say that the Messiah would come from the region of Galilee, but from the city of David, Bethlehem as prophesied through the prophets. This showed that St. Bartholomew likely had a significant knowledge of the Scriptures and likely had high intelligence as well. This is something that Judas Iscariot, the traitor, also shared with him.

However, unlike Judas Iscariot, St. Bartholomew trusted in God and followed Him wholeheartedly. Ever since the Lord revealed to him that He knew all about him, and knew where he was before he met Him, St. Bartholomew knew that Jesus was indeed the Son of God, the One he had been looking for. He followed the Lord and although very little was mentioned of St. Bartholomew in the Scriptural records, he definitely took part in the important events of the early Church.

According to the Church history and tradition passed down from the Apostles, St. Bartholomew was attributed with the mission to India, preaching the faith along the coasts of what is today India, either together or separate from St. Thomas, who also preached in the same region and established the first Christian communities in that area. St. Bartholomew then would travel afterwards to the region of Armenia and continued to preach the faith there.

St. Bartholomew preached the Gospel and the truth of God in Armenia, together with St. Jude Thaddeus, and it was in Armenia that St. Bartholomew was martyred, after accounts that he managed to convert either a king or high noble of Armenia to the Christian faith, and after opposition from the pagans, St. Bartholomew was arrested, tortured, flayed alive and beheaded, enduring martyrdom for his faith in God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we have seen such courage and commitment that St. Bartholomew, as well as the other Apostles had shown in the face of persecution and trials, and they all courageously stood up for their faith even the midst of harm and threat to their own lives and safety. They showed us what true Christian faith, dedication and commitment are all about, and we should be inspired by their great examples, particularly that of St. Bartholomew the Apostle.

And in our first reading today, we heard the interesting passage from the Book of Revelations of St. John the Apostle, in which at the end of the Revelations that St. John received and recorded, he spoke of the vision of the great new city of God, coming down from Heaven, the New Jerusalem, full of God’s glory. St. John saw the New Jerusalem that will come at the end of time and after the Last Judgment, where all the faithful will live together with God, reigning gloriously in His kingdom.

And the Apostles were featured prominently in that vision, occupying thrones or seats of Judgment, as the Twelve principal servants of the Lord, as the sharers of God’s glory. For all the sufferings that the Apostles suffered, as everyone except for St. John died in martyrdom, suffering all sorts of most terrible tortures before their deaths, and for St. John’s case, he suffered a lifetime of persecution, arrest and imprisonment, exile and hard labour in his long life.

What we all can take from this passage is the hope that the Lord has given us, of the eternal life and glory to come, in His eternal kingdom. And although our lives may be difficult and we may encounter bitter repression and persecution as the Apostles like St. Bartholomew had suffered, but we must remain faithful, for in the end, God knows every single little actions we do for His sake and for His glory, and also for the good of our fellow brethren. When the time of reckoning comes, we will definitely not regret have given what we could to serve the Lord.

That is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, we are called to follow in the footsteps of the Apostles, and especially today we remember the glorious memory of St. Bartholomew, faithful and dedicated servant of God. Let us all reach out in faith to our fellow brethren, and let us show God’s love and truth via our actions in life. May the Lord bless each and every one of us, and strengthen us in our faith and resolve to live righteously in His presence. Amen.

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