Anonymously and Barely Known

21st OT, St. Bartholomew, 2021

Her name is Ms. Fonie Pierre.  We hardly know anything about her other than what the article in the newspaper told us. There was no picture, so we don’t even know what she looks like.  We were told she has a daughter, lives in the region of Haiti hit by the recent earthquake and had to leave her damaged home.  She is, however, the public health professional who heads operations in Haiti for Catholic Relief Services and has, despite her own losses, spent her last 10 days diligently organizing services for thousands of people in need there.

In most circles, she’s an ordinary woman, yet last week in Haiti, she was one of the most important and needed people around.  For the incredible service that she and her workers continue to provide, all are deeply grateful.

St. Bartholomew, whose feast we celebrate today, could also fall in the category of people we know little about, but who have impacted lives by the service they provide in the name of Christ.  What we do know about this relatively unknown individual is this:

  • He was one of the 12 Apostles and biblical scholars believe Bartholomew and Nathaniel, in our gospel today, are one and the same man.
  • He came from Cana where Jesus performed his first miracle.
  • His best friend, Philip, introduced him to Jesus, but at first, Nathaniel was skeptical saying, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Philip responded so sensitively to him when he said:  “Come and see”.
  • Jesus describes Nathaniel as a true Israelite, without duplicity. Not a bad thing to be called an honest guy by Jesus.  Obviously, his heart was moved and he becomes one of the first apostles to recognize Jesus as the Messiah.
  • Finally, tradition has it that after the resurrection, Bartholomew preached in India.

Despite the fact that we know so little of Bartholomew, or any of the apostles for that matter, it is also true that these unknown ones became the foundation stones of our faith, the 12 pillars of the new Israel that is now worldwide.  Their personalities were secondary to their call to speak the name of Jesus and enlighten the world.

Perhaps in Bartholomew we find the way most of us live our faith: anonymously and barely known.  It’s unlikely that any of us will be remembered for any extraordinary or great deeds.  And yet, in ordinary people like us, God is at work making the meager mighty, revealing the grace and goodness and light of Christ.