After getting all Pope
John Paul II's luggage loaded in the limo (and His Holiness doesn't travel
light) in NYC, the driver notices that the Pope is still standing on the curb.
"Excuse me, Your Holiness." says the driver, "Would you please
take your seat so we can leave?""Well, to tell you the truth,"
says the Pope, "They never let me drive at the Vatican, and I'd really like
to drive today.""I'm sorry but I cannot let you do that. I'd lose my
job! And what if something should happen?" protests the driver, wishing
he'd never gone to work that morning."There might be something extra in it
for you," says the Pope. Reluctantly, the driver gets in the back as the
Pope climbs in behind the wheel. The driver quickly regrets his decision when,
after exiting the airport, the Supreme Pontiff floors it, accelerating the limo
to 105mph."Please slow down, Your Holiness!!!," pleads the worried
driver, but the Pope keeps the pedal to the metal until they hear sirens.
"Oh, my God, I'm gonna lose my license," moans the driver. The Pope
pulls over and rolls down the window as the patrolman approaches, but the cop
takes one look at him, goes back to his motorcycle, and gets on the radio.
"I need to talk to the Chief," he says to the dispatch. The Chief
gets on the radio and the cop tells him that he's stopped a limo going a
hundred and five."So bust him," said the Chief."I think the
guy's a big shot," said the cop."All the more reason.""No,
I mean really a big shot," said the cop."What'd ya got there, the
said the Chief, "Who is it?""I don't know", said the cop,
"but he's got the Pope driving for him."
celebrate the Patron Saint of this congregation: St Bartholomew. I wonder how many of us know anything about
this saint? Are you aware that the name
Bartholomew is never mentioned in the gospel of John? I wasn't.
Instead we hear of another follower of Jesus named
"Nathaniel". Perhaps you
remember the story? John writes :in John
" Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him,
and saith of him, 'Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!" The word
"guile" means "deceit". His heart was pure, honest and
true. In the day in which we live, when deceit is practiced widely by the
famous and powerful, and apparently without shame, it is hard to conceive of
those who have not been shaped by such forces.
The name "Bar-tholomew"
is a name based on the name of his father, 'bar' meaning "son" of Tolmai (or Talmai) Scholars think then that he also may have had
another name, being Nathaniel a name that means "gift of God". Therefore
in the a Jewish way of naming he was Nathaniel Bartholomew
Ancient tradition says
that when the disciples dispersed to share the gospel, Bartholomew went to
preach in Asia Minor, Mesopotamia, Persia, and India. The
tradition says he was martyred by being flayed alive, that is, having his skin
cut from his body or skinned alive,
until he bled to death. In fact, his symbol is the "flaying knife." The
church in Armenia believes that he and the disciple Thaddeus were the first to
bring the gospel to Armenia.
A very different story of St. Batholomew's mission appears in the traditions of the Egyptian Coptic and
Ethiopian Abyssinian churches, which also honor him highly, celebrating his day
on August 29. Their accounts tell of his preaching at an oasis in Upper Egypt
(there is a special commemoration of this event on November 15), then going
among the Berbers where he was rescued from wild beasts by a cannibal, and
finally preaching along the coast of North Africa where a local king, Agrippa,
had him sewn into a leather bag and dropped into the sea. He is the patron Saint of tanners and
butchers. The only Apostle not martyred
was St John.
The readings for the Feast of St
Bartholomew seem to have a common theme of "greatness" and how we
should approach it. Paul never exalts
himself although in one passage he says in effect: "I have a right to" Moses speaks of
a great prophet being raised up by God.
The Apostles seem to miss understand greatness. We read about this in Luke chapter nine:
An argument started
among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest. Jesus,
knowing their thoughts, took a little child and had him stand beside him.
48 Then he said to them, “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and
whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For it is the one who is
least among you all who is the greatest.”
This is very consistent with how Jesus
presents himself. In Luke 22 Jesus says:
"The kings of the Gentiles lord it
over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves
Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead,
the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like
the one who serves. 27 For who is
greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one
who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves."
another passage people came from afar and when they got to the disciples they
said: " They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.” John 12:21 That is what God and others need and want
from us to see Jesus not the messenger of Jesus.
In an age where "self-esteem"
and "self-image" seem to be the highest of cultural concerns, this
may be difficult to grasp. However to
those who are in need of our kindness, love and help they are of no
consequence. They don't matter. Survival matters. Kindness and understanding
matter. The gospel is not meant to
conquer by force but by love. Servant hood is a difficult concept when the
first person we think of is ourselves. That
concept was perhaps no more strange in our secular age than in the age
of the disciples. The Newer Testament is
an exercise I servanthood. But this
servanthood is for Jesus' sake and in the service of righteousness. Indeed, as Paul wrote in today's lesson, "we are fools for Christ's sake."
But as he also wrote: " you are wise in Christ". How difficult it is to be "in the
world" and not "of" the world. When we consider the examples of the
Apostles, St Bartholomew who left the security of Judea burdened with a
message, he could not keep to himself, one more important than his own life,. He
had experienced the gift of eternal life and the power of God's Holy Spirit
living in him. His love of the human beings for whom Christ had died made him
almost fearless. Jesus had placed a
holy hope in them for the world to come.
In closing let me relate what Paul
says of our following of the Lord Jesus as he writes to the church of Philippi:
In your relationships
with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider
equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself
taking the very nature of a servant, being
made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a
man, he humbled himself by
becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted
him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above
every name, that at the name of
Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth
and under the earth, and every tongue
acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father Philippians 2:6-11