Tuesday August 24, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Feast of Saint Bartholomew
Reading (Revelation 21:9b-14) Gospel (St. John 1:45-51)
Today, as we celebrate the feast of Saint Bartholomew, remember that Nathaniel and Bartholomew are the same person. This is why we have this particular reading from the gospel of Saint John about Nathaniel and about what Jesus had to say regarding him, Here is a true Israelite. There is no duplicity in him. Now, Nathaniel initially says to Phillip, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Remember, the word Nazareth comes from the Hebrew word Nazer which means, “a shoot” as in “a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse.” And so, Nazareth was founded by a small group of people, the House of David, who believed fully well that the Messiah was going to come from among their number. Of course, the people of Israel thought that they were nuts and that is exactly why Nathaniel is asking the question he is asking. Nazareth is a little Podunk town out in the middle of nowhere with a bunch of people who they thought were pretty crazy. Yet, this is where God chose to send His Son.
Now we can look at what the angel says to Saint John, “Come here. I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” We are each the bride of the Lamb and we can say, “Can anything good come out of this?” Look at whom He has chosen to be His bride. It is the new Jerusalem, but we are the members of the new Jerusalem. In baptism, we have been made members of Jesus Christ, and, just as in marriage, the two shall become one, so we have become fully incorporated into Christ Himself. We, together, make up the bride of Christ; we are to be united with Him; we are to be faithful to Him; we are to love Him and to serve Him. And, of course, we know, too, that God has chosen (for those whom He has called to Himself) not the ones whom the world would consider the greatest but the ones the world considers the least. If we were to line up a whole bunch of people and say, “Now which ones here most deserve to be members of the bride of Christ?” we would probably not be among those who were chosen by the worldly types. And, so, people can look and say, “Can anything good come out of this? Out of this group of people? Out of the Church?”
Of course, on the natural level the answer is pretty doubtful. But this is not on the natural level because the Bridegroom of our souls is not natural but is supernatural. He is God, and if we are united with Him as a bride and a bridegroom are united, the two become one. Therefore, we share in His divine nature and in His divine life. The good comes out of Christ and not out of us. It is His life and it is His love in us that He is giving to us. We, then, are able to turn and offer this back so that we can live in a divine way; we can serve in a divine way; we can love in a divine way. This, not because of anything within ourselves that is so good, but rather because of Him who is perfectly good who is united to us. What a blessing! What a gift that God has given to us to call us to this kind of glory, to this union with Christ!
But that means that He wants from us the same thing that he saw in the apostle, Bartholomew (Nathaniel). That is, He wants us to be true Israelites with no duplicity, to be single-heartedly in love with Him. It does not mean to be pulled here and there or to be seeking our own will while giving lip service to Him. But, rather, to be seeking Him alone; to be seeking perfect union with Him; to be offering ourselves in every way for Him; to be loving Him at every moment of every day. Because we are members of the new Israel, of the new Jerusalem, we are called to that single-hearted nature of love. We are to be perfectly united to the bridegroom of our souls and to be completely in love with Him. That is what it means to a member of the new Israel without duplicity, without anything standing between Him and ourselves because we are united with Him perfectly and completely.
Therefore, we want to open ourselves, that is, to open our hearts entirely to Him; to hold nothing back; to have nothing in the way and to get ourselves out of the way because we have given ourselves completely to Him and we have received Him completely to ourselves. We are to live His life and we are to allow Him to live in us and through us. We are to be single-heartedly devoted to Him alone. That is our glory. That is our call and it is something supernatural. If you sit back and say, “I cannot do it”, then you are right - by yourself, that is. But, Jesus can do it in you because He can do all things and with Him nothing is impossible. It is even possible for Him to take the likes of us and make us the bride of the Lamb and to make us the new Israel with no duplicity in our hearts. Only He can do that in us, and only if we cooperate since He is not going to force it on us. What is more, we have to see that he has done this in us. Let the people of the world look and say, “Can anything good come out of this?” and let them see that the good which is coming out of us is the love of Jesus Christ Himself, which is perfectly good
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.