Feast of St Bartholomew
Apocalypse 21:9-14; Psalm 144; John 1:45-51
A man lives with his aged mother, her caregiver and his cat. The man travels often but calls home frequently to check on his family. One time, the cat died and the caregiver, being an honest sort told the man that as soon has he called. He chided her for her insensitivity and said, ‘Next time, you should do things slowly. On the first day, you can say that the cat’s on the roof and we can’t get it down. The next day, you can say that the fire brigade tried but it’s still stuck on the roof. Only on the third day, then you might say that despite all efforts, it died. That way, I’m prepared for the bad news.’ The caregiver took note of this. Some months later, the man was on his travels and called home again and asked, ‘How’s mum?’ And the caregiver paused for a moment and replied, ‘Well, sir, she’s on the roof…’
Many of us are like that man – unable or unwilling to accept the truth as it is and wanting to embellish or hide it whenever we can. Straight or frank talk is often frowned upon. Some time back, many people were very keen on political correctness, using euphemistic statements to tell of truths. A short person is vertically challenged and a janitor becomes a sanitation engineer. Even now, there are many who are overly sensitive about certain words used and even simple things like lazy and silly are frowned upon in classrooms in the west. The Lord in the gospel reminds us that telling the truth is important and that we should do that always.
Nathaniel (whom many associate with Bartholomew) was described as being incapable of deceit. That’s quite a high compliment to give anyone. He spoke his mind about what he thought about people from Nazareth, not hiding his true feelings about them. The Lord knew of this and appreciated his straightforwardness. The same forthrightness allowed him to know and acclaim the Lord as Son of God and King of Israel. His openness allowed him to be more open to recognising the divinity of the Lord.
And the Lord knew of this and rewarded him accordingly. He was told that he would see the heavens in the same way that Jacob did in the past, an honour that is accorded to few. We realise that in our relationship with the Lord, truth begets truth. The truth of heaven was told to Nathaniel because he was truthful in his relations with others. We can see this as a key to understanding the first reading as truth and integrity are virtues of the apostles that are foundational to the heavenly Jerusalem. It is upon such virtue that the city of God is built, not on jewels or just pretty things.
Thus we’re reminded of the importance of being honest and forthright with God. Deceit and dishonesty puts up a wall between us and God. Just as we try to hid our thoughts and deeds from God (as Adam and Eve did in the garden after eating the fruit), so this wall also prevents us from hearing God. We should be honest and not just tell God what we think God wants to hear. We should, in our prayer, be honest and vent the frustrations, lay on the complaints and rant as much as we need to. By doing so, we open ourselves to the possibility of God’s healing grace. Honesty with our feelings allows us to receive all the love that God always wants to shower upon us.
In our prayer today, what do we really, honestly want to tell the Lord?