Liturgical Colour : Red
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the Feast of St. Bartholomew the Apostle, one of the Lord’s Twelve Apostles, and who was also identified as Nathanael, his alternate name as highlighted in our Gospel passage today. St. Bartholomew as known by Nathanael was an intellectual and educated person, who accepted the Lord’s calling and devoted himself henceforth in the service of the Lord. He would go on to proclaim the Lord’s truth and Good News among the people in various distant lands and committed himself to a ministry of service, right up to his martyrdom, which inspired yet many more to follow the Lord.
St. Bartholomew according to Apostolic and Church traditions went on missionary journeys to various regions including but perhaps not limited to Ethiopia, Mesopotamia, Parthia, Lycaonia in Asia Minor, Armenia and even India. He spent many years and a lot of efforts in proclaiming the Gospel of truth among the people there, some of whom received the Lord and the Good News with enthusiasm, while others rejected the Lord and refused to believe in Him, and refusing also to believe in St. Bartholomew and the other missionaries sent to their midst. Through those works, St. Bartholomew sowed the seeds of faith and built the foundation of the Church in many places, but he had to face a lot of hardships too.
St. Bartholomew was credited with an early mission to India and the regions far east from the land of Judea. He visited several regions in ancient India, establishing probably the first Christian communities there together with the other famous Apostle, St. Thomas the Apostle, who established the foundation of the Christian communities in India, that survived until the present day and could trace their faith lineage all the way since the days of the Apostles, both St. Thomas and St. Bartholomew. Then, St. Bartholomew was also involved in an important mission to Armenia where most stories agreed that he faced persecution and martyrdom there.
In Armenia, St. Bartholomew likely proclaimed the Lord together with another Apostle, namely St. Jude Thaddeus, and it was there that the first seeds of the Christian faith was sown. While Armenia would eventually become the first Christian nation in the world about two and a half centuries later after the time of the Apostles, but back then, it was still a land of pagans, although St. Bartholomew managed to convince some of them to listen to the Good News of God, and some were convinced to become Christians. Not only that, but one of the rulers, traditionally according to historical stories, named Polymius was convinced by St. Bartholomew to become a Christian, and that led to a vicious reaction against the Apostles.
Depending on the version of tradition, St. Bartholomew was either crucified upside down in the similar manner as St. Peter the Apostle in Rome, or the more popular and common one being that he was flayed or skinned alive before he was martyred in Armenia. Regardless of the way and the circumstances of his martyrdom, what each one of us can really be sure of is that St. Bartholomew had dedicated his life to the service of God and he had suffered greatly for that, and yet, he embraced his martyrdom happily and with great faith, knowing that he had suffered for the sake of the Lord and His Church, for the salvation of many more souls.
The courage and faith showed by St. Bartholomew and the other Apostles, saints and martyrs still inspire us even right to this day. St. Bartholomew showed us all what it means to be genuine and true Christians, to become true followers and disciples of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Each and every one of us had been called and chosen, to become the Lord’s disciples and followers, and we have been given the mission to go forth and proclaim the same truth and Good News just as St. Bartholomew and the other Apostles had done in the past. As members of God’s same Church, we are all called to be evangelising disciples and missionaries through our lives.
This does not mean that we have to do what St. Bartholomew and the Apostles had done. Each one of us have been given different talents, abilities, gifts and opportunities by the Lord. What the Lord wants us all to do is that, we should make good use of all those in whatever opportunities and goods we have, whatever blessings and talents we have gained, so that we may glorify the Lord and His Name, and proclaim His truth by our worthy lives, our worthy actions, words and deeds. This is what we should be doing, brothers and sisters in Christ, namely to live our lives worthily for the Lord and to do our best to obey His Law, His commandments and His will.
Let us all strive to be missionary and evangelising disciples and followers of the Lord, in everything we say and do, in our every vocations in life, be it as married couples, as family members, youth or elderly, be it as laypeople or members of the presbyterate, or be it as members of religious orders and other institutions. Each and every one of us have our own unique roles to play as part of the Lord’s Church to fulfil what He has called us to do, to obey Him wholeheartedly and to be exemplary and sources of inspiration for one another, for our fellow brothers and sisters at all times. May God be with us always, and bless our every good works and endeavours, and may St. Bartholomew continue to intercede for us sinners. Amen.