24 August 2007 Feast of St. Bartholomew, Apostle
John 1, 43-51 The Call of Bartholomew
There is a pattern of discipleship that the Gospel presents. Andrew brings Simon Peter, his brother to Jesus. Andrew tells Peter, “We have found the Messiah!” The Gospel tells us that Philip told Nathaniel, “We have found the Messiah!” and eventually brought his friend to Jesus. A disciple therefore is someone who brings another person to Jesus.
The first question for us today is simple: Who brings us to Jesus? We may look at our past history and name the people who introduced us to Jesus. My parents in baptism promised to rear me in the Catholic faith. They were my first disciples — my Andrews and my Philips. They provided me the environment for the nurturing of faith. We prayed the rosary before we went to bed: even when some of us (including my dad) would doze off in the middle of the prayer. They made it a habit to go to Sunday mass at 8 AM as a family despite our “other mass schedules” (we were choir members and church organists).
Perhaps we can add another dimension to this first point: Who brought us to a deeper understanding of Jesus? Our friends, teachers, and organizations can bring us to a deeper knowledge of Christ. My teachers in religion taught me the life of Jesus and his teachings. My religious organizations — our choir, the Ateneo Catechetical Instruction League (ACIL) and the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) —- contributed to the growth of my faith.
In the Gospel today, Philip identifies Jesus as coming from Nazareth. Nathaniel retorted, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Nathaniel was not skeptical about Jesus: Jesus himself said that he was a true Israelite, a man without guile. Nathaniel knew by heart the Old Testament. Nazareth was a small insignificant place, like one of our barangays or barrios. There is nothing in the Old Testament that mentions the Messiah as coming from Nazareth. The Messiah, the most awaited figure in all of Israel and God’s Chosen One, cannot come from an undistinguished place!
But Philip did not argue. He just said, “Come and see.” We have been attracted to our faith — or to affiliating with religious organizations — not by syllogisms but by persons whom we personally know. The Youth for Christ (YFC) for example constitutes the largest religious organization in UP, and many of them have been invited by members. Who are your present significant disciples who brought you to a deeper understanding of Jesus? Or, does your person attract people to the faith?
When Nathaniel believed, Jesus posed an important question, “Do you believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree?” The second question arises from this: What constitutes our faith? Why do we believe? Do we believe in God because we are afraid of hell? Do we believe because we are afraid that if we don’t, God will punish us and He will send us many misfortunes? Do you love God because you do not want the negative consequences if you don’t? Do we believe because our parents or our peers said so? Or is your faith largely about fulfilling your obligations, attending the rituals, without continually updating and studying the bible and the teachings of Christ? Do we believe because we need a big favor: like passing the board and bar exams or the healing of a terminal illness? Who then is better: the one who goes to daily mass but maltreats her house help, or the professor who fights for injustice, teaches his/her students well, but declares his unbelief in God?