Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the law, and the prophets: he is Jesus, son of Joseph, from Nazareth.”
Nathanael replied, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” When Jesus saw Nathanael coming, he said of him, “Here comes an Israelite, a true one; there is nothing false in him.” Nathanael asked him, “How do you know me?” And Jesus said to him, “Before Philip called you, you were under the fig tree, and I saw you.”
Nathanael answered, “Master, you are the Son of God! You are the king of Israel!” But Jesus replied, “You believe because I said, ‘I saw you under the fig tree.’ But you will see greater things than that.
Truly, I say to you, you will see the heavens opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”
Despite contrary appearances, the saint we are remembering today, Bartholomew, is actually the same person as the Nathanael of today’s gospel reading. Experts tell us that Bartholomew (which, in Aramaic, means “son of Tolmai”) is a patronymic name and that Nathanael is a personal name.
This Nathanael came from Cana, a town not far from Nazareth. And, from his question “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” it is obvious that he does not have a very high opinion of Nazareth. And he does not hide it. In fact, everything about Nathanael is straightforward. However, despite his initial doubt about Jesus being the Messiah, he nevertheless follows Philip. So, here is a man sincerely in search of the truth. Not surprisingly, Jesus says of Nathanael that “there is nothing false in him.” Quite a compliment!
Upon hearing Jesus saying that he had seen him “under the fig tree,” Nathanael makes a complete about-face and is won to Jesus forever. What did the reference to the fig tree mean? No one knows. But it certainly implies that Jesus had plumbed the very depths of his soul.
Let us imitate Nathanael’s attitude toward the truth: critical open-mindedness, a willingness to “go and see.”
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