Pope Benedict XVI continued his catechesis on the twelve Apostles today, speaking to some 30,000 pilgrims about the lesser known Apostle, St. Bartholomew, during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square.
The Pope began by admitting that little is known about Bartholomew, who is traditionally identified in the Gospels as Nathaniel, “a name that means 'God has given.'"
The first mention of Nathaniel in the Gospels, Benedict noted, is when the Apostle Phillip tells him of having encountered Jesus, the Messiah, who had come from Nazareth. Nathaniel answers in a prejudiced way; "Can anything good come from Nazareth?"
The words of Nathaniel, the Pope said, offer a lesson for the Church. “It shows us that, according to the Judaic expectations, the Messiah could never come from such an obscure town,” Benedict said. “At the same time however, it emphasizes God's freedom, which surprises our expectations by being found where least expected."
"The story of Nathaniel also offers another reflection,” the Holy Father continued, “in our relationship with Jesus, words are not enough.”
“Phillip invites Nathaniel to meet Jesus personally: ‘Come and see!’ Our knowledge of Jesus, above all, needs to be a living experience. The witness of others is certainly important, since, usually, all our Christian life begins with the proclamation that comes to us from one or more witnesses,” Benedict continued. “However, it is up to us to become personally involved in an intimate and deep relationship with Jesus.”
“Later, in his dialogue with Jesus,” the Pope noted, “Nathaniel would conclude with a profession of faith: ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!’”
The Pope said this proclamation by Nathaniel, "highlights a dual, complementary aspect of the identity of Jesus: His special relationship with God the Father, being the one and only Son, and with the people of Israel, having been declared their king."
"We must never lose sight of these two dimensions,” Benedict emphasized, “because if we only proclaim the heavenly dimension of Jesus, we run the risk of making Him an ethereal and evanescent being; while, on the contrary, if we only recognize His physical presence in history, we end up forgetting His Divine dimension, which qualifies Him."
"We do not have detailed news about Bartholomew's later apostolic activities, the Pope concluded. But, nonetheless, “the figure of Saint Bartholomew remains before us to tell us that deep adhesion to Jesus can be lived and witnessed even without the achievement of sensational works."