Homily for August 24, Feast of St Bartholomew, Apostle
Today we celebrate the feast of the Apostle St. Bartholomew, also known as Nathaniel. And I ask myself a question: could any of us here today give an account of his life with any degree of detail?
The fact is that we know almost nothing about him. The Gospel only recounts the moment when Christ calls him to follow him (in today’s Gospel reading), and mentions him tangentially here and there without much real information. We have no reliable sources to tell us about where he preached, how he died, or where he is buried. And yet, he is one of the Twelve Apostles; as the first reading indicates, he is one of the foundation stones of the Church and the Kingdom of Christ.
St Bartholomew lived what we have been hearing in the readings at Mass over the past few days: he was a humble servant of God who preached the truth and gave glory to God, not to himself. The Lord did not plan for St Bartholomew to have great renown on earth, but through his preaching and holy life he made a huge contribution to the early Church. He started an avalanche of grace that will not stop growing and spreading until the end of time and the coming of the Kingdom.
This is a valuable reminder that fame and publicity are neither lasting nor a reliable indicator of sanctity or success. On one hand St Bartholomew was probably well known in his lifetime among Christians as one of the chosen Apostles of the Lord. Now we know little more than his name for certain (we don’t even know for sure if he is the same person as Nathaniel, although there are good reasons to identify the two Gospel personages). That doesn’t matter; what matters is his legacy in the form of men and women who received the faith from him and passed it on to other generations, bringing salvation to countless people.
On the other hand, there may be unnoticed saints in our very midst – women and men who, like St Bartholomew, are totally focused on working for Christ, and are inconspicuous but hard-working. They may be our fellow parishioners or next-door neighbors. They may never get any human recognition, but that is not what matters. What does matter is that they love God intensely and do their best to serve Him each day, and in this way participate in the salvation of the world.
May the Lord grant each of us to be among that silent multitude of servant saints who build the Church and make it strong with the joyful giving of our time, our resources and our lives.