The reading from the book of Revelation today is awesome. It describes the holy city of Jerusalem in heaven, radiating the glory of God like a very rare and precious jewel, as clear as crystal. There are twelve gates with twelve angels attending them and twelve foundations of the city with the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb written on them. It is hard to picture such a city, where God Himself will dwell with the human race.
That is the same state of mind that Nathanael was in when he met Jesus for the first time. Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Phillip called you.” Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” When Jesus answers him you can almost picture him laughing when he said “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.”
Jesus goes on to explain to Nathanael, what greater things he will one day see, “Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” The Lord described heaven with all of the angels surrounding him, and then the first reading today describes the beauty of the new Jerusalem, shinning with God’s glory and indeed, it tells of how the entire city was designed upon the foundation of the apostles.
Today is the Feast of Saint Bartholomew and most scholars believe Saint Bartholomew is actually Nathanael who is mentioned in today’s gospel. Very little is known about him other than the fact when Jesus saw Nathanael for the first time he said, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” What an awesome way to be acknowledged by Christ. Jesus acknowledged his holiness and worthiness to be his disciple, at first sight. That’s really something to consider. Do people know that we are striving to be good Christians when they meet us? Do we make a good first impression on others, that we are people of integrity, of honesty and deep faith?
“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give a gift from the spring of life-giving water. The victor will inherit these gifts, and I shall be his God, and he will be my son. But as for cowards, the unfaithful, the depraved, murders, the unchaste, sorcerers, idol-worshipers, and deceivers of every sort, their lot is in the burning pool of fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”
Jesus knew Nathanael had no deceit in him and that he had earned a rightful place in heaven, the people mentioned in the book of Revelation who were deceivers did not. If you read the list of those who will not enter heaven, but was sent to the burning pool of fire, it is pretty scary. Our society seems to be deteriorating further into these things. Many of the sins in this list are not even against the law in our country. Satanism and witchcraft is protected by federal law in the US as a formally recognized religion. Abortion is also protected by federal law. Eleven year old children will soon be allowed to purchase the morning after pill over the counter without their parents’ permission and their right to do this is also protected by federal law.
Today is not a day to focus on these things though, but to keep in mind that we are living our lives among people who do not share our values. It is a serious matter to keep this in mind. Christ said Nathaniel was “truly an Israelite” in whom there was no deceit. Let us be “truly Catholics” wherever we live today as well, so that Christ will recognize us and welcome us too, before we ever reach the gates of heaven.