Liturgical Colour : Red
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the great feast day of one of the Twelve Apostles, namely St. Bartholomew, also known as Nathaniel or Nathanael. He was a righteous and upright man called by the Lord to be one of His disciples, and therefore made him His apostle. The Lord did call His disciples from various backgrounds, including even tax collectors and murderers, as well as the righteous ones. All of them called from their former lives, abandoning them to follow the Lord their God in Christ.
Each of the Apostles were called to be the followers of Christ, to help Him in His mission in this world, and ultimately, to continue the works He had done, after He ascended in glory to heaven. They were entrusted with the care of the faithful, as shepherds of the sheep of the Lord, that is all of us, to be the guiding beacons along our long and arduous path towards salvation in God. From them came many generations of shepherds of the people of God, including that of our priests and bishops today, who are their successors, the successor of the Apostles of Christ.
St. Bartholomew travelled wide after the events depicted in the New Testament, as one of the Apostles of Christ, spreading the Good News of salvation to many around the world, and according to records, St. Bartholomew had visited and evangelised in Ethiopia, Armenia, India, and some other places throughout his ministry, converting many to the cause of God, bringing God’s salvation to many those who had not yet heard about Christ or saw His marvellous works.
He converted many to the Lord and brought many into the Church. However, in the same way with all the other Apostles and disciples of Christ, St. Bartholomew met much opposition, persecution, and oppression just as he was accepted by some in the societies that he had visited. Nevertheless, he continued to labour for the sake of the Lord in distant, foreign lands, until he eventually met the end of his life in martyrdom, apparently in Armenia, by being flayed alive and crucified upside down, much like St. Peter in Rome.
Despite his death, and the death of the other Apostles of Christ, in the hands of their enemies and executioners, in the hands of the enemies of God and the godless ones, they had brought forth a growth and flowering of the faithful in the Church, such that the saying is really true that ‘the blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians’. Their devotion, dedication, and martyrdom had inspired many to remain true to their faith and to remain faithful to their God, and many followed the Apostles like St. Bartholomew, into martyrdom themselves.
St. Bartholomew and the other Apostles of Christ, St. Peter, St. John the Evangelist and others, were not superhuman, brothers and sisters in Christ. They were same like us, mere man, with all their weaknesses, but also with their respective qualities and strengths. They experienced human emotions as we too experience our human emotions. They experienced doubt and fear when they followed Jesus, and especially when Jesus was captured, tried, and executed. They were scattered like sheep without a shepherd, and yet, when Christ came back in great triumph against evil and sin, He gathered them back upon Himself and sent them the Spirit as the Helper.
They were empowered with God’s love through that Spirit of love, and they were emboldened to take up the cause of the Lord and went forth courageously to spread the Gospels to all men. The Apostles went through hardships and suffering for the sake of God and also for the sake of His people, in the Church of God, and they faced death bravely when they were martyred for their faith and unshakeable devotion to the Lord. They shed their blood, and as I had mentioned, these formed the foundations of the Church of God, along with many other martyrs, that even though they are persecuted against, they remain vibrant and growing in both number and in their faith.
In the first reading, we see the Holy City of Jerusalem descending from heaven, to meet her Bride, that is the Lamb of God. That Holy City was great and precious, the heavenly Jerusalem, pure and clear like crystal. The City has twelve gates and twelve foundation stones, representing the twelve tribes of Israel. Those foundation stones also in fact represent the twelve apostles, brothers and sisters! Just as Christ Himself had said that the Apostles will sit on twelve thrones and judge the people of God. They are akin to the guardians of those gates, barring the entry into the city to anyone found not worthy.
That Holy City of God in fact represent both the presence of God, that all of us aspire to enter, and also the Church of God, built upon the support, the foundation stone of the Apostles. Their faith and dedication had been the strong foundation that held up the Church of God, and ensured its continuity throughout time, despite all the opposition, persecution, and evils it had faced all these while. That includes St. Bartholomew who gave up his life and laboured hard for the sake of the Lord.
Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us today, as we recall the labours and the righteousness of St. Bartholomew the Apostle, resolve to follow his life examples, and resolve to devote ourselves more to the laws and commandments of our God that is love, by loving one another, giving our love especially to those who have little or none of it, and to love God with all our might. Pray for us St. Bartholomew, the Apostle of Christ and defender of the faith. Amen.