It is always interesting to see the connections between the readings of the Mass on any given day. On August 24th, the first reading is from Rev 21: 9b – 14 where John has a vision of the New Jerusalem from an angel where he sees the glorious beauty of the city based on a foundation representing the 12 Apostles.
The Psalm reading (145: 11-13 and 17-18) talks about “Your friends make known, O Lord, the glorious splendor of your kingdom.” The friends, meaning his Apostles who spread the Word of His teaching. And, in the Gospel, Jn 1: 45-51. I always get a chuckle when Nathaniel first hears about whom”Moses wrote in the law” and then makes the pithy comment “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Despite this remark, it is Nathanael who was in for a surprise, since he ends up being the first disciple of Jesus!
I am always fascinated with the ways people come to Jesus and it always seems to be in a different way each time. I was listening to a convert to the faith who was talking about his initial experience. He was in his twenties at the time and had just completed his tour in the Marine Corp. He had been to a few Masses earlier in his life. On a whim, he decided to attend a local Mass and was following along quietly until the priest raised the Host high and said “This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world“….. That struck him like a bolt out of the blue! This time he really HEARD what that meant and that started his journey to the faith.
Another time, I was listening to a woman talking about her journey in faith. She was telling the interviewer that she was explaining to a priest many years ago that she realized that she wanted to do “something more for God. Anything really but I don’t want to become a nun“. The surprise here was that this woman was standing before the interviewer dressed in the full habit of a Religious congregation of Sisters! So, you never know where your journey may take you.
Word Among Us wrote a fine meditation on the reading with Nathanael and it is included below.
DAILY MEDITATION: JOHN 1:45-51
Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him. (John 1:47)
Today we commemorate St. Bartholomew, also known as Nathanael, the central character in today’s Gospel. The story tells us a lot about conversion. Even more, it can show us that every day presents an opportunity for a new encounter with Jesus.
First, Nathanael is introduced to Jesus by his friend Philip. Philip knew Nathanael was hoping for the Messiah and was excited to introduce him to Jesus. And so it often happens for us. We encounter Jesus through another person, someone who has been touched by Jesus, who is excited about their faith, whose fervor might even call us to stretch our own way of looking at things.
Second, Nathanael’s expectations were jolted when he met Jesus. He had been pondering the Scriptures—a traditional interpretation of sitting “under the fig tree” (John 1:48)—and was convinced that the Messiah would not come from Nazareth. But after he spoke with Jesus, he was willing to consider that something good might in fact come from that small village. For us, encountering Jesus can shed light on a way of thinking or acting that needs to change. Maybe we don’t pay enough attention to caring for the poor or we feel too busy to listen to people who don’t agree with us. Jesus asks us to be open to rethink our ideas.
Third, Nathanael responded. He didn’t just say, “What a nice experience” and continue on his way as before. He professed Jesus as “the Son of God, . . . the King of Israel” and began to follow him (John 1:49).
You might experience a singular, spectacular conversion moment like Nathanael. But it’s more likely that the response Jesus wants from you is to turn your life over to him more, to say yes to him a bit more completely.
Expect to meet Jesus today. Be on the lookout for someone through whom Jesus might be reaching out to you. How might he want to upend your expectations or call you to take the next step in following him? Today is an opportunity to encounter him. Make the most of it!
“Lord, help me to meet you today. Shake up my expectations and help me to follow you more fully.”
Psalm 145:10-13, 17-18