Homily for August 24th, 2016: John 1:45-51.
It is a little disappointing to find, on this feast of St. Bartholomew, that the gospel reading is about a man named Nathanael. Scripture scholars believe that Bartholomew and Nathanael are actually the same person. The gospel writers wrote inspired by faith, and in order to instill faith in others, not in order to give us “just the facts.”
“We have found the one about whom Moses wrote in the law, and also the prophets,” Philip tells his friend Nathanael, “Jesus son of Joseph, from
Nathanael responds with skepticism: “Can anything good come from Nazareth ?” Nazareth was then an
insignificant village, unmentioned in the Old Testament. Nazareth
Despite this skepticism Nathanael is willing to accept his friend Philip’s invitation to “Come and see.” This attitude of openness is what causes Jesus to call Nathanael “a true child of
with no duplicity in him. Too many of Jesus’ own people lacked this openness.
We see this in their many demands that Jesus produce some dramatic “sign” which
would compel belief; and in their refusal to heed the signs Jesus did offer:
his miracles. Israel
Philip was telling Nathanael, in effect, that he had found the one so long foretold by the Jewish scriptures: the Lord’s anointed servant, the Messiah. Nathanael responds to Jesus’ identification of him as “a true child of
” without duplicity by an
explicit acknowledgment of what Philip has just told him: “Rabbi, you are the
Son of God; you are the King of Israel.” Israel
Acknowledging the faith expressed in Nathanael’s words, Jesus tells him that further blessings await him: “You will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” The words are the climax of this brief reading, and the most important. They tell us that Jesus is the contact person between earth and heaven, between humanity and God.
We contact God by offering prayers to our heavenly Father through his Son Jesus, in and through the Holy Spirit, who inspires us to pray and supports us as we do so. The ascending angels are carrying our prayers heavenward. And the descending angels are bringing us the Father’s blessings in answer to our prayers. If we were on that ladder, we’d grow tired of going up and down. God’s angels are never weary. They are active always – on our behalf.