Feast of Saint Bartholomew—24 August AD 2014
Ordinary of the Mass
Epistle: 1 Corinthians xii: 27-31
Now you are the body of Christ, and members of member. And God indeed
hath set some in the church; first apostles, secondly prophets, thirdly
doctors; after that miracles; then the graces of healing, helps,
governments, kinds of tongues, interpretations of speeches. Are all
apostles? Are all prophets? Are all doctors? Are all workers of
miracles? Have all the grace of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all
interpret? But be zealous for the better gifts. And I shew unto you
yet a more excellent way.
Gospel: Luke vi: 12-19
And it came to pass in those days, that he went out
into a mountain to pray, and he passed the whole night in the prayer of God.
And when day was come, he called unto him his disciples; and he chose twelve
of them (whom also he named apostles). Simon, whom he surnamed Peter,
and Andrew his brother, James and John, Philip and Bartholomew,
Matthew and Thomas, James the son of Alpheus, and Simon who is called
Zelotes, And Jude, the brother of James, and Judas Iscariot, who was
the traitor. And coming down with them, he stood in a plain place, and
the company of his disciples, and a very great multitude of people from all
Judea and Jerusalem, and the sea coast both of Tyre and Sidon, Who
were come to hear him, and to be healed of their diseases. And they that
were troubled with unclean spirits, were cured. And all the multitude
sought to touch him, for virtue went out from him, and healed all.
Related Gospel: John i: 44-51
Now Philip was of Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and
Peter. Philip 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. And Nathanael said to him: Can any thing of good
come from Nazareth? Philip saith to him: Come and see. Jesus saw
Nathanael coming to him: and he saith of him: Behold an Israelite indeed, in
whom there is no guile. Nathanael 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. Nathanael answered him, and
said: Rabbi, thou art the Son of God, thou art the King of Israel.
Jesus answered, and said to him: Because I said unto thee, I saw thee under
the fig tree, thou believest: greater things than these shalt thou see.
And he saith to him: Amen, amen I say to you, you shall see the heaven
opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.
In today’s Gospel, after a night of prayer with His
Father, we see Our Lord selecting the twelve men who would be His Apostles.
Over time, He would gain additional followers—He drew crowds numbering in
He would send seventy-two men to preach in all the places He intended to
likely there were others. There were women as well as men—Mark mentions “Mary
Magdalen, and Mary the mother of James the less and of Joseph, and Salome:
Who also when he was in Galilee followed him, and ministered to him, and
many other women that came up with him to Jerusalem.”
He had many followers, but the Apostles were a group
apart. One would betray Him, but the choice of Judas was deliberate. Our
Lord knew how He would die—and, not that it excuses him, Judas was to be an
essential part of that death. The twelve, including Judas, were to be His
priests—“high priests,” really, for they were the first bishops.
To be chosen as an Apostle was a singular distinction, but it was not
without danger. All except Saint John would die excruciating deaths, and
even John did not escape torture and exile.
Today we celebrate the Mass of one of those
Apostles—the one called Bartholomew. You may know that when Jewish names
begin with the word “Bar,” they are “patronymics”; that is to say that
Bartholomew was so-called because he was the son of someone named Tholomew.
Scripture scholars are fairly sure that he is the same man mentioned in
Saint John’s Gospel as Nathaniel.
In his very first chapter John tells us how Nathaniel
was brought to meet Jesus by his friend Philip, who told him: “We have found
the one written about by Moses and the Prophets; Jesus the son of Joseph of
At first Nathaniel-Bartholomew was skeptical, not believing that anything
good could come out of a backwater town like Nazareth. But Nathaniel went
with Philip, and was astounded that Jesus was able to describe the place
where Philip had found him, “under a fig tree.” Nathanael’s reaction was
one of complete faith, perhaps with a touch of prophecy, he answered Jesus:
“Rabbi, thou art the Son of God, thou art the King of Israel.”
In the same passage we learn something about
Nathaniel’s character. Jesus Himself assured us that Nathaniel was “a true
Israelite, in whom there is no guile.”
Jesus judged him to be an honest man who would never plot to deceive
anyone. What a remarkable recommendation, coming from the One who knows all
Nathaniel-Bartholomew would one day see “heaven opened,
and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.”
The reward for his service as an Apostle would be to see the Son of God in
But, like all the Apostles, his service would be
arduous indeed. The Divine Office tells us that he travelled first to
India—a monumental over-land trip from Jerusalem, or perhaps a dangerous
voyage around the Horn of Africa (if such transportation was available to
him). He established the Faith on the coast of India, to the west of modern
day Bombay. The historical record is sketchy, but one can imagine the
difficulties of preaching the Gospel of the Son of God in a pantheistic
country like Hindu India.
On leaving India, he journeyed north-east-ward to
Armenia, a journey that traversed modern Pakistan (perhaps Afghanistan) and
Iraq. In Armenia, Bartholomew succeeded in winning the King, the King’s
wife, and the people of twelve cities to the Faith. These mass conversions
set off the pagan priests, who convinced the King’s brother to arrest and
murder Bartholomew. His martyrdom was particularly gruesome, being skinned
alive, and then crucified. Many accounts say he was crucified upside
down—like Saint Peter, who was the other Apostle to correctly identify Our
Lord as the Son of God.
Other accounts say that Bartholomew was beheaded, much like the victims of
the modern day savages of the Middle East. Bartholomew’s relics were
buried, first of all in Armenia, but today reside in his shrine on the
Island in the Tiber, the river that enters Rome from the Mediterranean Sea.
Together with Nathaniel, the son of Tholomeus, may God
grant us the graces to profess the divinity and kingship of His Son in utter
truthfulness, without concern for its cost to us, for the salvation of the
souls of those who may hate us on earth, so that all of us may see the glory
of the Son of God in heaven!