Thursday, August 24, 2017

Daily word, 24 Aug 17

Feast of St. Bartholomew, Apostle (24 Aug 2017)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J. on 8-day Directed Retreat

[Before mass:
Tradition knows Bartholomew, Son of Talmai, by his personal name: Nathaniel—gift of God. Christian tradition happily fuses together both names in one person. The Fourth Gospel was more at home with his personal name. It moves us to ask Nathaniel-Bartholomew to help us be open to welcome the personal gift God desires us to enjoy.]

This selection is from the Fourth Gospel’s first chapter. Hard to miss the naming that happened in it. Naming is prominent throughout the chapter. In its second half the Baptizer began it when he spotted Jesus walk by: Behold, the Lamb of God!1 Hearing the Baptizer two followed Jesus; one was Andrew. Both were first to name Jesus Rabbi: Rabbi, where do you dwell?2 After a day with Jesus Andrew got his brother Simon: We have found the Messiah!3—always sought, never found. We can imagine impulsive, skeptical Simon’s reaction; yet he went! When he arrived Jesus took his turn and named Simon: Peter,4 the name by which he has been known ever after.

We celebrate Nathaniel-Bartholomew’s feast with the rest of the chapter: Philip and Nathaniel named Jesus. Philip recognized Jesus as the one about whom Moses wrote and all the prophets testified. If Andrew’s names for Jesus shone as individual stars—Rabbi, Messiah—Jesus was for Philip their universe promised by Moses and the prophets. With his all-embracing name Philip sought Nathaniel and urged him to meet Jesus.

Nathaniel reacted to his companion’s urging: Can anything good come from Nazareth? Some call it his prejudice. I’m unconvinced: Mediterranean people spoke in capital letters—and still do. To me Nathaniel searched for the good. This is certain: Nathaniel was honest and open. Jesus knew before he conversed with him that Nathaniel was truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit: today Jesus might say of Nathaniel, One gets exactly what one sees. Coming into Jesus’ presence Nathaniel, who sought the good, found God: Nathaniel named Jesus Son of God and King of Israel. Jesus assured him that God would satisfy his longing.

The reaction of Nathaniel-Bartholomew graces us: we may name it “honest to God.” Retreat is a time to be honest about ourselves and honest to God. When we struggle with either or both we have Nathaniel-Bartholomew to intercede for us and to encourage our honesty. Our daily meeting with our spiritual directors helps us practice being open: to bring into the light every movement within us. Every movement,  even difficult, frightening, desolate ones, can alert us: God desires new life to break through for us.

New life may register as a new way to be with Jesus. We can trust its freshness as we feel drawn closer to Jesus; aware he holds new significance for us; feel invited to rejoin his mission. New life may be a name Jesus desires us to know—for the first time or yet again. Retreat-silence helps us be more alert to it; and Nathaniel-Bartholomew models for us and helps us be both honest to God and open to the gifts God desires each of us to enjoy—gifts that are shares now in God’s abundant life we will one day share in full.
  1. John 1.35.
  2. John 1.38.
  3. John 1.41.
  4. John 1.42.

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