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Home » Saint of the Day

St. Bartholomew a.k.a Nathanael

Submitted by on Wednesday, 24 August 2011No Comment

Benedict XVI on St. Bartholomew

40p-Bartholomew

On October 4, 2006, Benedict XVI delivered his catechism on St. Bartholomew. The section we present here is a veritable commentary on the Gospel reading for the day.

Philip told this Nathanael that he had found "him of whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph" (John 1:45). As we know, Nathanael’s retort was rather strongly prejudiced: "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" (John 1:46). In its own way, this form of protestation is important for us. Indeed, it makes us see that according to Judaic expectations the Messiah could not come from such an obscure village as, precisely, Nazareth (see also John 7:42).

But at the same time Nathanael’s protest highlights God’s freedom, which baffles our expectations by causing him to be found in the very place where we least expect him. Moreover, we actually know that Jesus was not exclusively "from Nazareth" but was born in Bethlehem (cf. Matthew 2:1; Luke 2:4) and came ultimately from Heaven, from the Father who is in Heaven.

Nathanael’s reaction suggests another thought to us: in our relationship with Jesus we must not be satisfied with words alone. In his answer, Philip offers Nathanael a meaningful invitation: "Come and see!" (John 1:46). Our knowledge of Jesus needs above all a first-hand experience: someone else’s testimony is of course important, for normally the whole of our Christian life begins with the proclamation handed down to us by one or more witnesses.

However, we ourselves must then be personally involved in a close and deep relationship with Jesus; in a similar way, when the Samaritans had heard the testimony of their fellow citizen whom Jesus had met at Jacob’s well, they wanted to talk to him directly, and after this conversation they told the woman: "It is no longer because of your words that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Saviour of the world" (John 4:42).

Returning to the scene of Nathanael’s vocation, the Evangelist tells us that when Jesus sees Nathanael approaching, he exclaims: "Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no guile!" (John 1:47). This is praise reminiscent of the text of a Psalm: "Blessed is the man… in whose spirit there is no deceit" (32[31]: 2), but provokes the curiosity of Nathanael who answers in amazement: "How do you know me?" (John 1:48).

Jesus’ reply cannot immediately be understood. He says: "Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you" (John 1:48). We do not know what had happened under this fig tree. It is obvious that it had to do with a decisive moment in Nathanael’s life.

His heart is moved by Jesus’ words, he feels understood and he understands: "This man knows everything about me, he knows and is familiar with the road of life; I can truly trust this man". And so he answers with a clear and beautiful confession of faith: "Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!" (John 1:49). In this confession is conveyed a first important step in the journey of attachment to Jesus.

Nathanael’s words shed light on a twofold, complementary aspect of Jesus’ identity: he is recognized both in his special relationship with God the Father, of whom he is the Only-begotten Son, and in his relationship with the People of Israel, of whom he is the declared King, precisely the description of the awaited Messiah. We must never lose sight of either of these two elements because if we only proclaim Jesus’ heavenly dimension, we risk making him an ethereal and evanescent being; and if, on the contrary, we recognize only his concrete place in history, we end by neglecting the divine dimension that properly qualifies him. From Benedict XVI’s Catechesis on St. Bartholomew, October 4, 2006

For more of today’s readings, go here.

John 1:45
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45Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith to him: We have found him of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets did write, Jesus the son of Joseph of Nazareth.
John 1:46
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46And Nathanael said to him: Can any thing of good come from Nazareth? Philip saith to him: Come and see.
John 7:42
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42Doth not the scripture say: That Christ cometh of the seed of David, and from Bethlehem the town where David was?
Matthew 2:1
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1When Jesus therefore was born in Bethlehem of Juda, in the days of king Herod, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem.
Luke 2:4
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4And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem: because he was of the house and family of David,
John 1:46
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46And Nathanael said to him: Can any thing of good come from Nazareth? Philip saith to him: Come and see.
John 4:42
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42And they said to the woman: We now believe, not for thy saying: for we ourselves have heard him, and know that this is indeed the Saviour of the world.
John 1:47
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47Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him: and he saith of him: Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no guile.
John 1:48
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48Nathanael saith to him: Whence knowest thou me? Jesus answered, and said to him: Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee.
John 1:48
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48Nathanael saith to him: Whence knowest thou me? Jesus answered, and said to him: Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee.
John 1:49
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49Nathanael answered him, and said: Rabbi, thou art the Son of God, thou art the King of Israel.

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