Feast of St Bartholomew
This morning while my wife and I were doing the Office of Readings for the feast I was struck by the power of the writing of St John Chrysostom that was chosen for the readings. While not about Bartholomew himself the reading gave us a wonderful reflection on the change in the apostles after the resurrection of Jesus.
We must remember that these twelve men were uneducated, with the exception perhaps of Matthew and Judas, and that they were from what we would call nowadays, ‘the lower classes.’ In Ireland we would say that they were not the ‘nice people.’
Listen to what St John Chrysostom says:
“That the preaching of these men was indeed divine is brought home to us in the same way. For how otherwise could twelve uneducated men, who lived on lakes and rivers and wastelands, get the idea for such an immense enterprise? How could men who perhaps had never been in a city or a public square think of setting out to do battle with the whole world? That they were fearful, timid men, the evangelist makes clear; he did not reject the fact or try to hide their weaknesses. Indeed he turned these into a proof of the truth. What did he say of them? That when Christ was arrested, the others fled, despite all the miracles they had seen, while he who was leader of the others denied him!”
When you think of it, how would 12 uneducated men come up with such an idea? Then when James was executed a few years after Jesus died, you would expect the rest to give up and go home: people do not die for a lie, people will only die for something that they truly believe in.
Can you imagine twelve Jewish men coming out today and preaching about love of neighbour, the Muslims, the Christians, and everyone else? This is what these men did: they spoke of love even for their enemies, even the Romans, who were ruthless in their persecution of the Jewish people.
St John Chrysostom goes on:
“How then account for the fact that these men, who in Christ’s lifetime did not stand up to the attacks by the Jews, set forth to do battle with the whole world once Christ was dead – if, as you claim, Christ did not rise and speak to them and rouse their courage?”
Yes, it is easy to see that something powerful happened to the apostles to change them from cowards to strong willed witnesses for Christ. The only logical reply is that what they claimed, that Jesus was risen, was in fact true.