St. Bartholomew

August 23, 2019

The Pastor's Page

Nothing is known about St. Bartholomew except that he was one of the original twelve apostles (Mt 10:3; Mk 3:18; Lk 6:14; Acts 1:1). Was he a fisherman like some of the other apostles, or a farmer, a shepherd, or a craftsman? How did Jesus call him? How quickly did he respond? What was his personality like?

As little as is known about him, it is safe to presume that St. Bartholomew was an ordinary fellow like the others. It is highly unlikely that he was from the upper class, wealthy, well-educated, or a polished public speaker.

As an apostle, St. Bartholomew accompanied Jesus over the three years of his public ministry (Lk 8:1). Like the other apostles, even though he heard Jesus’ preaching and saw his miracles, he did not understand much of what Jesus said, was confused about who Jesus was, and was afraid many times. He supposedly was in Jesus’ inner circle, a partner and a friend, yet on the night that Jesus was arrested, he fled (Mt 26:56; Mk 14:50), and when Jesus was crucified, he was nowhere to be found. He did little to distinguish himself. He was an average person, plain and unremarkable, timid and weak, cautious and reserved in his commitment to Jesus.

This all changed, and suddenly. St. Bartholomew experienced an astonishing transformation. When he encountered the risen Jesus, Jesus roused his courage. Then he received the gift of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. He had been lukewarm, and suddenly he was on fire for the Lord. Ordinary became extraordinary. Dull became brilliant. Halfhearted became rock solid. Sputtering became supercharged. Reserved became outspoken. Private went public.

St. Bartholomew had spent his whole life in Galilee, but now would take the gospel on the road. His only concerns had been mundane things, but now his concern was the Kingdom of God. He had shied away from opposition and conflict, and now he was ready to do battle with the world.

Church historians believe that St. Bartholomew made a number of missionary journeys. There is evidence that he made a major trip to India and founded a Christian community on the Malabar Coast. There are also reports that he made easterly expeditions to Mesopotamia and Persia, to the modern areas of Syria, Iraq, and Iran; and northwesterly expeditions to Phrygia and Lycaonia, regions in central and east central Asia Minor or Turkey. Tradition holds that his final missionary journey was to the west coast of the Caspian Sea in Armenia, southern Russia, where he both made converts and was martyred.

St. Bartholomew was an ordinary person, and Jesus called him to do extraordinary things in his name. He may have been unworthy, but Jesus made him worthy. He may have been weak, but Jesus gave him strength.

Likewise, most of us are rather ordinary. We have our shortcomings and faults. Yet, despite our limitations and flaws, Jesus still calls us not only to follow him but also to serve him, and to do so without holding back. Jesus uses ordinary people. He givse us courage. The Holy Spirit gives us power.

About Father Michael Van Sloun

Father Michael A. Van Sloun is the pastor of Saint Bartholomew of Wayzata, MN. Ministerial interests include weekly Bible study, articles on theological topics, religious photography, retreats on Cross spirituality, and pilgrimages to the Holy Land, Italy, Greece and Turkey.

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