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St. Bartholomew: Humble Servant

A clip from St. Bartholomew’s in NYC, named after tomorrow’s saint

Tomorrow, the Church remembers a leader most known for being one of the original 12 apostles, but the Bible tells us little about him beyond this. He is associated with having brought the Christian faith to both India and Armenia. What we do know is that, as one of Jesus’ earliest followers, he would have been familiar with the humble servanthood expected of followers of Jesus, and most likely lived it out.

Israel had looked forward to another great prophet like Moses since the days just after the Exodus. (Deuteronomy 18:15-18) I’ve often wondered how people would behave today had history worked out so that Jesus walked among us in this day and age. Would we be like that first generation of his followers, or would we get too caught up in the celebrity worship that permeates our society? Given how some in the public eye who claim to be followers of Jesus behave today, I think it would be safe to say that the celebrity worship would dominate things.

It’s very easy to imagine people seeking out selfie opportunities and sharing viral videos of miracles. But, in many ways, I think people living today realize that we need a Redeemer. Like our earlier counterparts, many look to the present-day political and social systems as the answer to problems that are spiritual. In fact, we must ask ourselves: had Jesus become incarnate in our age instead of 2,000 years ago, would he have faced death just as surely? I believe so, and I think we’re kidding ourselves if we think otherwise.

Following Jesus today isn’t easy, and it was back in New Testament times, either. (1 Corinthians 4:9-15) Being in want, having false accusations made, being driven out from society, imprisonment, and death are some of the things that the apostles faced that are unfortunately still with Christians today. The persecutors may follow different sociopolitical idealogies and different religions, but the dynamic is still the same: Christ’s followers will often pay a price for sharing God’s gift of love and grace, especially to the marginalized.

Most of the intrigues and conflicts over power that play out in political and economic circles should be absent from the Church as well, but unfortunately aren’t. Jesus’ message about leaders being like one who serves (Luke 22:24-30) would be good for all in positions of authority to bear in mind. Bartholomew and the apostles, though the subject of legends involving miracles, aren’t best-known for their signs and wonders. They are known for spreading their message of redemption in the face of great hardship, and being faithful to that even to death.

Almighty and everlasting God, who gave to your apostle Bartholomew grace truly to believe and to preach your Word: Grant that your Church may love what he believed and preach what he taught; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


August 23, 2016 Posted by | Holidays/Feasts, Saints and Feasts, Sermons/Homilies | , , , , | Leave a comment

Yes, We All Need Some Quiet Sometimes

Jesus Praying Stained Windows in Bukit Doa Getsemane

A priest on EWTN recently emphasized how much the contemplatuve tradition is still needed, and I couldn’t agree more. There are so many demands on our time and attention at the best of times, and pop culture-influenced Christianity has often done its best to shut out the contemplative aspect.

A whole generation has grown up with megachurches that are so influential that, for many, their way of doing things is the authentic way and others are wrong. Liturgical churches are often run down as being “boring”, “like a funeral”, or not “relevant”.

However, all the glitz and showmanship found in many modern churches would have baffled Jesus’ early followers, and not just because of the technology. How often do we read about Jesus going to a quiet place to pray, as well as partcipating in public prayer?

Jesus’ followers understood the need for quiet and contemplation well enough that the monastic tradition took root within a few centuries. Even though most of us will live in the world and not in a cloistered community, the witness of these early monastics has a few things to teach us.

  1. We all need time away from the cares of the world, even if just for a few moments of each day
  2. Worship services need to make room for private, contemplative prayer
  3. Encouraging contemplative prayer, coupled with Bible reading, is a good way to let God’s Word speak to us

Have you taken your quiet time alone with God recently?

August 2, 2016 Posted by | Liturgy/Worship | | Leave a comment