This week we are thinking about St. Bartholomew. He is a difficult Apostle to write about because we really do not know a whole lot about him. Many scholars would say that Bartholomew is the same person as Nathaniel, who appears in John’s Gospel. Bart or Nate; Bart and Nate- we just don’t know. Oh that there had been a first century version of Facebook – all those selfies from India or Armenia or wherever Bartholomew preached the Gospel when he left Jerusalem!
From a historical point of view, selfies would be great, but they would also be distracting. We would look at facial features and offset them by the fashion in our own society. We would look at clothes and probably be equally entranced and appalled by many of the things which such pictures would reveal in the background. In a visual age, we are left without images of those who were closest to Jesus, or even of Jesus himself. We do not have the option to say, “I really don’t like the look of him,” before we consider the story which Bartholomew’s life tells.
He was a preacher and teacher. He was martyred and his symbol is a knife because many think his martyrdom was especially cruel and gruesome. What we know about him is not what he looked like or where he liked to go shopping. What we know about him was that he was so convinced and convicted by Jesus that he gave everything to telling the story of the Gospel.
It is worth while considering, as we give thanks for Bartholomew, how often we do judge on appearances. Pay attention, I know I do it all the time. Appearances can help us because we need to be cautious in some situations, but when how a person looks becomes such a barrier that we will not allow ourselves ever to get to know them, we have a problem. Ask God, just for a few moments, to allow you to see the hearts of those you meet – and to give you patience and courage to engage with them as those who are beloved – just like you.