SAINT BARTHOLOMEW, Apostle
The Church, a Sacrament of Love
I spoke in my usual tone of voice. ‘Good morning!’ The registrar of my Alma mater, turned round to face me. She had the most puzzling quizzical look on her face. I repeated my greeting. She took a closer look into my face. Even before asking my name or responding to my greeting, she asked. ‘Where are you from?’ ‘St. Lucia,’ I replied. Her eyes narrowed. ‘How to you speaks such impeccable English?” I chuckled for a second and responded. ‘We were seven times French and seven times English. We are bilingual.’ At that, she added, ‘We Americans speak only one language.” We laughed out the whole thing cheerfully and ended our meeting with an animate discussion on culture.
Presumptuousness often clouds our vision and broadens our prejudice, regardless of which corner of the globe we come from. Something in some folks, make them believe they are superior and others are inferior because of their origin, academic or financial status – or even their ethnicity – most times are the cause of their rejection and maltreatment. God, made us all different for his own good purpose. He will variety in all things and hence all that he willed endures (Wis.11:25-26). Until today, God and Christ are still victims of our preconceptions (Matt.25:40). Nathaniel was not his first accuser. Others before Nathaniel questioned Christ’s intellect, wisdom, and power. After all, he was the son of a carpenter. His mother was a simple village girl. Look at his associates; they were ordinary anglers. Where did Jesus get all this wisdom and power from (Matt.13:54-56)? Jesus was familiar with mockery but he always responded to ridicule with love, compassion, mercy and solidarity with those derided him.
I can just imagine Jesus chuckling at Nathaniel’s sarcasm. Jesus, however, realised Nathaniel was just being himself – thinking purely in human terms and Jesus had no wish to condemn Nathaniel. Why? Christ came not to condemn the world but through him, the world might be saved (Jn.3:17). Jesus’ response clearly demonstrated the will of his Father. In keeping with Psalm 139 Jesus calmly told Nathaniel: my omnipotence, omnipresence, omniscience will not permit me to judge you. That simple disclosure of himself was enough to change Nathaniel’s way of thinking. What happened next?
Through a deliberate show of compassion and love, patience and solidarity Christ the opened the path to faith and grace to Nathaniel and offered him the fullness of God’s revelation. At that point, Christ became for Nathaniel, Philip and that privy to the conversation the sacrament of salvation. That same revelation would later take place on a grander scale after the death, resurrection and ascension of Christ into heaven. In the heat of the early Christian persecution, Christ revealed himself in all his glorious splendour to strengthen the faith of the apostles; he reminded them they were the doors through which the world will enter into the Mystical Body of Christ and finally into the fullness of God’s saving love.
Today, as stewards of Christ, ours is the responsibility to play the part of Philip to find the Nathaniel(s) from the respective corners of our world and introduce them to Christ. Though we may be greeted with the same prejudice or hostility as Christ, we must continue to fulfil our mission to be sacraments of salvation to the world.
O God, enlighten the eyes of my mind, and heart that I may always recognise your presence in others, and address them as I would address you.