Saint Bartholomew,
Sculpted by Pierre Le Gros the Younger (1666-1719)
Sculpted between 1703–1712,
© Christian Art

Saint Bartholomew,
Sculpted by Pierre Le Gros the Younger (1666-1719)
Sculpted between 1703–1712,
© Christian Art

Gospel of 24 August 2021

Nathaniel said ‘Can anything good come from that place?’

John 1:45-51

Philip found Nathaniel and said to him, 'We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, the one about whom the prophets wrote: he is Jesus son of Joseph, from Nazareth.' 'From Nazareth?' said Nathaniel 'Can anything good come from that place?' 'Come and see' replied Philip. When Jesus saw Nathaniel coming he said of him, 'There is an Israelite who deserves the name, incapable of deceit.' 'How do you know me?' said Nathanael. 'Before Philip came to call you,' said Jesus 'I saw you under the fig tree.' Nathanael answered, 'Rabbi, you are the Son of God, you are the King of Israel.' Jesus replied, 'You believe that just because I said: I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that.' And then he added 'I tell you most solemnly, you will see heaven laid open and, above the Son of Man, the angels of God ascending and descending.'

Reflection on the Sculpture

In our Gospel reading today we read of how Philip was eager to tell his friend Nathaniel (who is also known as Bartholomew in Matthew 10:3 and Luke 6:14) about the news that he had decided to follow Jesus and be His disciple. Philip tried his hardest to convince Nathaniel that Jesus was actually THE Messiah, mentioned by Moses and all the prophets. Nathanial was very dismissive at first, stating that it was not possible for the Messiah to come from Nazareth. "Can anything good come from that place?" he states, skeptically. As Nazareth was at the crossroads of many trade routes where people from different races and cultures gathered, he thought that the town would not be orthodox enough to produce the true Messiah. We all carry a bit of Nathaniel in us. We can all be skeptical at times when people tell us some truths, especially relating to religion. 

Rather than argue with his friend, Phillip decides to invite Nathaniel over to meet Jesus. 'Come and see' for yourself he says to Nathaniel. It is a beautiful lesson that often clever arguments may not win over people (back) to God, but a personal encounter with Christ can change lives forever!

Today we celebrate Saint Bartholomew (Nathaniel). I share with you an image of a sculpture depicting the saint holding his own flayed skin, symbol of his martyrdom. It is one of twelve sculptures of the twelve Apostles at the Basilica of Saint John Lateran in Rome. They are in the central nave of the church, each placed in a separate niche designed by Francesco Borromini in the second half of the 17th century. The artist was Pierre Le Gros the Younger. His imposing sculpture of Nathaniel demonstrates the disciple's faith after his encounter with Christ: he went from pure skepticism about Christ, to generously accepting one of the most cruel martyrdoms ever…

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