Today the Church celebrates the feast of St. Bartholomew. Bartholomew is one of the twelve apostles. He is originally from Cana in Galilee and in the Gospel of John he is identified with the name Nathanael (meaning gift of God). Bartholomew’s first encounter with Jesus is recorded in John 1:43-51 and we see that it is an encounter that proves decisive for Bartholomew – he changes his life, leaves all he knows and follows Jesus. We see this response again and again throughout the gospels. The encounter with Jesus changes things. This living encounter is at the heart of discipleship and at the heart of vocation and it is extremely important to note that this encounter is with a person – not an idea or a theory or story or an interesting worldview or philosophy – but a person, the very person of Jesus Christ. Discipleship and vocation must be rooted in our continuing encounter with Jesus Christ – the one who once was dead but who now lives! It is just as true today for us as it was for the original twelve and the call is just as deep, just as needed in our world and just as life-giving!
As I enter into my new role as Vocation Director for our diocese I am doing my homework and part of this is reading, studying and reflecting on the fifth edition of The Program of Priestly Formation of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. In the introduction of the PPF we find these words, “Priestly formation today continues the call of Jesus, the response of his first disciples, and their communion of life. The Gospel foundation (emphasis mine) of priestly formation precedes programs, structures and plans. What was vital and essential for that first community of disciples remains so today…” What remains vital today and everyday is the encounter with Christ and the willingness, on our part, to enter into this encounter and to trust it. This encounter is the Gospel foundation which precedes all else.
It is important to note in John’s first chapter that it is Philip who first goes to get Bartholomew, “We have found the one that Moses wrote about in the Law, and the prophets as well: he is Jesus, son of Joseph, from Nazareth.” Bartholomew then chose to accompany Philip back in order to see for himself – even if he was a bit skeptical at first. This willingness to go and see is key to the life of discipleship and discerning vocation! Take the time to go and see! Yes, there probably are a hundred other things that could also be done. Yes, in the eyes of the world, it might seem a foolish waste of time. Yes, probably others will not understand. Yes, it will mean trusting and the risk of being disappointed. But … take the time to go and see anyway!
Take the time to encounter Christ and let him speak to your heart!
St. Bartholomew, pray for us!
(In my next post I will discuss St. Bartholomew and the new martyrs.)