Today is the Feast of St. Bartholomew, Apostle. We know very little about the saint other than In the New Testament where Bartholomew is mentioned in the lists of the apostles. Some scholars identify him with Nathanael, a man of Cana in Galilee who was summoned to Jesus by Philip. It is thought that Jesus paid him a great compliment: “Here is a true child of Israel. There is no duplicity in him” (John 1:47). The encounter continues with some unmentioned event that lead Nathanael to exclaim, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel” (John 1:49). Jesus promised even great revelations. Those revelations drove him to mission. The Roman Martyrology says he preached in India and Greater Armenia, where he was flayed and beheaded, dying a martyr’s death. Many of the images of the saint show him with the skin of his body and legs, flayed open. Very gruesome.
I have often wondered about the idea that Jesus paid Nathanael a compliment as being a true child of Israel. Right before this, when Phillip suggest Nathanael come and see Jesus, Nathanael replied, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Perhaps being a true child of Israel is to be burdened with all the presumption about “those Galileans!” Perhaps in the context Jesus’ ministry “the children of Israel” are the ones who will most resist Jesus as Messiah. Maybe part of their resistance comes from the fact Jesus’ home is in Nazareth – which apparently is not held in high esteem.
We ourselves have a place, a town, a geography with which we makes all manner of assumptions. What do New York City folks think of country folk from the hills of Kentucky or the bayous of Louisiana. Of course, the country folk hold certain presumptions about city dwellers. Uptown vs. downtown. South Boston v. everyone else in the world… add South Philly to that list. Everybody in Houston wears 10 gallon hats and drives Cadillac sedans with steer horns affixed to the front. And folks from California…. I am sure you can fill in your own favorite stereotype.
But the antidote, the vaccine to all this is “Come and see.” Actually take the time to in the presence of the real person, not the stereotype. Look beyond the clothes, the dialects, the accents, mannerisms, their sense of polite, and all the rest that encumbers truly seeing the person as they are …. not as we want them to be.
The same is true for Jesus. “Come and see.” Considering yesterday’s gospel, perhaps yesterday’s post, is making the same point. When asked, “Who do you say that I am?” you can give St. Peter’s answer (and it is a good one) but don’t presume your answer (even if with the same words) mean the same thing. “Come and see” for yourself.