Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Under the Fig Tree

Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than this.” And he said to him, “Amen, amen, I say to you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” John 1:49-51

"Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God." Matthew 5:8.
The purity of Bartholomew allowed him to immediately see and recognize the Lord when introduced by Philip.  Lord, allow us to see you more clearly and love you unconditionally like you love us.   

“Here is a true child of Israel.
There is no duplicity in him.”

With such a strong characterization and pronouncement by Jesus, it is hard to believe that we do not have more content about Nathaniel/Bartholomew in the New Testament.  If he was incapable of deceit, Jesus did not dwell on St. Bartholomew’s virtues but rather focused on the flaws of the Pharisees and scribes who needed to change their evil (or at least selfish) ways.

Beyond the scene in today’s reading from John Chapter 1, we meet up with Nathanael of Cana one more time in John 21 (the last book) when Jesus grills fresh fish for the “last breakfast.”  After being hidden away in the Upper Room, six disciples went out with Peter to literally go fishing.  None of this “fisher of men” symbolism.  They went back to their comfort zone –- fishing -- even this man from Cana who had “no duplicity in him.”

But Nathaniel was lacking "duplicity" - that is, his heart was undivided, his intentions pure - his openness to reality was always ready to recognize and surrender to the truth when he encountered it. He remained open to his friend Phillip's invitation to "Come and see (1:46)."[i]

Nathanael did indeed see great things that morning when the disciples recognized the risen Christ on the shore. The first Epiphany may have come to the Magi.  The second Epiphany came to Nathanael in the scene of today’s reading.  The last one came to the seven fishermen.

Who was there:  Bartholomew or Nathanael? 

We are confronted again with the fact that we know almost nothing about most of the apostles. Yet the unknown ones were also foundation stones, the 12 pillars of the new Israel whose 12 tribes now encompass the whole earth. Their personalities were secondary (without thereby being demeaned) to their great office of bearing tradition from their firsthand experience, speaking in the name of Jesus, putting the Word made flesh into human words for the enlightenment of the world. Their holiness was not an introverted contemplation of their status before God. It was a gift that they had to share with others. The Good News was that all are called to the holiness of being Christ’s members, by the gracious gift of God.

The simple fact is that humanity is totally meaningless unless God is its total concern. Then humanity, made holy with God’s own holiness, becomes the most precious creation of God.[ii]

Bartholomew/Nathanael sets himself apart from the Pharisees and scribes with his authenticity and honesty that allows nothing to come between his eyes and the Lord. 

When have you been face-to-face with the Truth like Bartholomew/Nathanael?  How did you react? 

There are some who might deny the truth.  Pope Francis addressed this in his Encyclical on the environment called Laudato Si’ (“Be praised” or “Praise be to you”)—a line from the Canticle of the Sun by St. Francis of Assisi.

The letter is addressed to all people who share our common home and specifically addresses Care for creation -- something that is close to his heart.  Pope Francis believes that there are significant ecological problems today that need to be addressed. They include not only problems in the natural environment but also in the human sphere, particularly among the poorest. The issues include:
  1. Pollution and climate change
  2. The issue of water
  3. Loss of biodiversity (i.e., the extinction of plants, animals, etc.)
  4. Decline in the quality of human life and the breakdown of society
  5. Global inequality
However, some people would like to deny the truth about what is happening – a cause for more evangelization, not less. 

Concerning the idea that the climate is getting warmer, in general, the pope writes:

A very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system. In recent decades this warming has been accompanied by a constant rise in the sea level and, it would appear, by an increase of extreme weather events, even if a scientifically determinable cause cannot be assigned to each particular phenomenon. Humanity is called to recognize the need for changes in lifestyle, production, and consumption, in order to combat this warming or at least the human causes which produce or aggravate it [LS 23].

The pope thus sees there as being “a very solid scientific consensus” regarding the idea of global warming.  Human activity, however, is only one factor in causing this.

"Nature" is giving us some graphic lessons in this just recently. There are devastating floods in Louisiana and rampaging fires in California, burning much more extensively because of a multi-year drought. And although I'm well aware that we cannot definitely link specific weather events to climate change, the extent of these disasters suggests that climate change is indeed playing a role -- at least in their size and scope. A wake-up call perhaps?[iii]

How did you react to reading Laudato Si’?   

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