For those of you who read this in print, did you know that I also post it online at our parish website? That makes it available to my mom in Alabama, among countless – okay, maybe about thirteen – other fans around the country. But there it is just more among a lot of stuff on the internet; why should anyone believe this?
You know me, you know who I am and what I do with my days; what I have learned, and what I laugh at. So you know the context in which to take what I offer. But for someone coming across it online, how would they know whether to believe anything I write?
I have been thinking about this lately because there is so much information and disinformation available these days thanks to our communications technology. How do you choose what you will believe? On what information, and on whose opinions, will you base your life decisions?
Can you honestly evaluate your day, your week, and see whose words you take for truth, and whose you view with suspicion? What are the sources of news and thought that you accept and act upon? Why have you chosen those? It is never a bad time to evaluate this, as it has such an influence on your life and what you do with it.
Saint Bartholomew, whose great and holy Feast Day is brutally suppressed this year by the Twenty First Sunday in Ordinary Time, is famous for his skepticism when he first met Jesus. We hear about it in the first chapter of Saint John’s Gospel, where he is called Nathanael: Philip found Nathana-el, and said to him, "We have found him of whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph." Nathana-el said to him, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?"
Now Philip was a friend, so Bartholomew did not dismiss what he said; but neither did he automatically take his word for it. So Philip, who was confident in what he had found in Jesus, offered immediate verification of the highest sort. Philip said to him, "Come and see."
Then what happened is one of my favorite episodes in all the Gospel; the banter between Jesus and Nathanael in which Nathanael encounters the reality of who Jesus is, and Jesus ribs Nathanael for his skepticism, but also promises him more. I love it.
Jesus saw Nathana-el coming to him, and said of him, "Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!" Nathana-el said to him, "How do you know me?" Jesus answered him, "Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you." Nathana-el answered him, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!" Jesus answered him, "Because I said to you, I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe? You shall see greater things than these." And he said to him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man."
Perhaps because Bartholomew is my heavenly patron, I always turn a critical eye to any new information, especially information that claims to call for me to change the way I live. I encourage you and all whom I meet to do the same. I encourage you even to be skeptical about the information I give you – though I hope you could stay as good-natured as Nathanael about it.