August 24, Saint Bartholomew, Apostle
The call of the Lord
Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Here is a true Israelite. There is no duplicity in him.” Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.” Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than this”. Jn 1,47-50
“As he passed by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting their nets into the sea; they were fishermen. Jesus said to them, ‘Come after me’” (Mk 1,16-20). “As he passed by, he saw Levi, sitting at the customs post. He said to him, ‘Follow me’” (Mk 2,14). In the Gospels, the call is made up of three distinct phases: Jesus passes by, he sees, he calls. Of these phases, the most important one is the second, Jesus’s seeing; his passing by is a preamble and the call is a consequence, the same way as the flash of a lightning is preceded by the first rain and followed by the thunder. The call is always “unexpected”, it comes to us while we are doing something else, and it is “radical”, we can only answer “Yes,” leaving everything behind and following the Lord, or “No” as the rich young man did, who sadly went away. In today’s Gospel, the secondary phases of “passing by” and “calling” are performed by Philip, but they are made possible by the fact that Nathanael had already been “seen” by Jesus: “Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree”. Nathaniel’s call can be considered the prototype of the modern call: nowadays, Jesus does no longer pass personally along the streets of the world; it is always Philip who passes, a brother who has already met the Lord. Philip, however, passes when the person has already been seen by the Lord. This is what happened also to us. On the Sunday before Christmas 1975, we went to the parish of Holy Family in Saronno, to inform ourselves about the possibility of enrolling Gianmario and Giannandrea on the parish kindergarten. We got in, we walked a little in the aisles, but there was none. Finally, we heard some voices and saw some light coming from the last door at the end of the aisle. We knocked, we turned the handle and put the head through the half-open door. “Come, brothers” a voice from within told us. It was Oliviero Gulot, who was leading a prayer meeting. “Sorry, we got into the wrong room” we answered. “No, no, please, sit down, brothers, you haven’t mistaken the room” Oliviero continued. “Why, are we brothers, maybe?” I said, a little resented. “Of course – Oliviero exclaimed – we are brothers in Christ”. “Well, brother in Christ, we got into the wrong room.” Since this rap had lasted a few moments, to take the other people in the room off embarrassment, we decided to sit down on the last two chairs left free, in the back rows. That very day, in the prayer group of Saronno, our spiritual journey began, and it has been going on over the years, as a loyal friend, a true life partner. Thanks Oliviero!