Audiences 2005-2013 60906

Wednesday, 6 September 2006 - Philip the Apostle

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

While we continue to outline the features of the various Apostles, as we have been doing for several weeks, today we meet Philip. He always comes fifth in the lists of the Twelve (cf.
Mt 10,3 Mc 3,18 Lc 6,14 Ac 1,13); hence, he is definitely among the first.

Although Philip was of Jewish origin, his name is Greek, like that of Andrew, and this is a small sign of cultural openness that must not be underestimated. The information we have on him is provided by John's Gospel. Like Peter and Andrew, he is a native of Bethsaida (cf. Jn 1,44), a town that belonged to the Tetrarchy of a son of Herod the Great, who was also called Philip (cf. Lc 3,1).

The Fourth Gospel recounts that after being called by Jesus, Philip meets Nathanael and tells him: "We have found him of whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph" (Jn 1,45). Philip does not give way to Nathanael's somewhat sceptical answer ("Can anything good come out of Nazareth?") and firmly retorts: "Come and see!" (Jn 1,46).

In his dry but clear response, Philip displays the characteristics of a true witness: he is not satisfied with presenting the proclamation theoretically, but directly challenges the person addressing him by suggesting he have a personal experience of what he has been told.

The same two verbs are used by Jesus when two disciples of John the Baptist approach him to ask him where he is staying. Jesus answers: "Come and see" (cf. Jn 1,38-39).

We can imagine that Philip is also addressing us with those two verbs that imply personal involvement. He is also saying to us what he said to Nathanael: "Come and see". The Apostle engages us to become closely acquainted with Jesus.

In fact, friendship, true knowledge of the other person, needs closeness and indeed, to a certain extent, lives on it. Moreover, it should not be forgotten that according to what Mark writes, Jesus chose the Twelve primarily "to be with him" (Mc 3,14); that is, to share in his life and learn directly from him not only the style of his behaviour, but above all who he really was.

Indeed, only in this way, taking part in his life, could they get to know him and subsequently, proclaim him.

Later, in Paul's Letter to the Ephesians, one would read that what is important is to "learn Christ" (Ep 4,20): therefore, not only and not so much to listen to his teachings and words as rather to know him in person, that is, his humanity and his divinity, his mystery and his beauty. In fact, he is not only a Teacher but a Friend, indeed, a Brother.

How will we be able to get to know him properly by being distant? Closeness, familiarity and habit make us discover the true identity of Jesus Christ. The Apostle Philip reminds us precisely of this. And thus he invites us to "come" and "see", that is, to enter into contact by listening, responding and communion of life with Jesus, day by day.

Then, on the occasion of the multiplication of the loaves, he received a request from Jesus as precise as it was surprising: that is, where could they buy bread to satisfy the hunger of all the people who were following him (cf. Jn 6,5). Then Philip very realistically answered: "Two hundred denarii would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little" (Jn 6,7).

Here one can see the practicality and realism of the Apostle who can judge the effective implications of a situation.

We then know how things went. We know that Jesus took the loaves and after giving thanks, distributed them. Thus, he brought about the multiplication of the loaves.

It is interesting, however, that it was to Philip himself that Jesus turned for some preliminary help with solving the problem: this is an obvious sign that he belonged to the close group that surrounded Jesus.

On another occasion very important for future history, before the Passion some Greeks who had gone to Jerusalem for the Passover "came to Philip... and said to him, "Sir, we wish to see Jesus'. Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew went with Philip and they told Jesus" (cf. Jn 12,20-22).

Once again, we have an indication of his special prestige within the Apostolic College. In this case, Philip acts above all as an intermediary between the request of some Greeks - he probably spoke Greek and could serve as an interpreter - and Jesus; even if he joined Andrew, the other Apostle with a Greek name, he was in any case the one whom the foreigners addressed.

This teaches us always to be ready to accept questions and requests, wherever they come from, and to direct them to the Lord, the only one who can fully satisfy them. Indeed, it is important to know that the prayers of those who approach us are not ultimately addressed to us, but to the Lord: it is to him that we must direct anyone in need. So it is that each one of us must be an open road towards him!

There is then another very particular occasion when Philip makes his entrance. During the Last Supper, after Jesus affirmed that to know him was also to know the Father (cf. Jn 14,7), Philip quite ingenuously asks him: "Lord, show us the Father, and we shall be satisfied" (Jn 14,8). Jesus answered with a gentle rebuke: "Have I been with you so long, and yet you do not know me, Philip? He who has seen me has seen the Father: how can you say, "Show us the Father?' Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in me?... Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father in me" (Jn 14,9-11).

These words are among the most exalted in John's Gospel. They contain a true and proper revelation. At the end of the Prologue to his Gospel, John says: "No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known" (Jn 1,18).

Well, that declaration which is made by the Evangelist is taken up and confirmed by Jesus himself, but with a fresh nuance. In fact, whereas John's Prologue speaks of an explanatory intervention by Jesus through the words of his teaching, in his answer to Philip Jesus refers to his own Person as such, letting it be understood that it is possible to understand him not only through his words but rather, simply through what he is.

To express ourselves in accordance with the paradox of the Incarnation we can certainly say that God gave himself a human face, the Face of Jesus, and consequently, from now on, if we truly want to know the Face of God, all we have to do is to contemplate the Face of Jesus! In his Face we truly see who God is and what he looks like!

The Evangelist does not tell us whether Philip grasped the full meaning of Jesus' sentence. There is no doubt that he dedicated his whole life entirely to him. According to certain later accounts (Acts of Philip and others), our Apostle is said to have evangelized first Greece and then Frisia, where he is supposed to have died, in Hierapolis, by a torture described variously as crucifixion or stoning.

Let us conclude our reflection by recalling the aim to which our whole life must aspire: to encounter Jesus as Philip encountered him, seeking to perceive in him God himself, the heavenly Father. If this commitment were lacking, we would be reflected back to ourselves as in a mirror and become more and more lonely! Philip teaches us instead to let ourselves be won over by Jesus, to be with him and also to invite others to share in this indispensable company; and in seeing, finding God, to find true life.

To special groups

I warmly welcome all the English-speaking pilgrims present at this Audience, including members of the Brothers of Charity Services in County Cork, Ireland, and the staff and students from St Joseph's Institute in Copenhagen. May your time in Rome deepen your love of Christ and his Church. Upon you all I invoke God's abundant Blessings!

Lastly, I greet the young people, the sick and the newly-weds. Dear young people, in returning from the holidays to your usual activities may you also resume the regular rhythm of your dialogue with God, spreading his light and his peace around you. Dear sick people, may you find comfort in the Lord Jesus, who continues his work of Redemption in every human being's life. And you, dear newly-weds, may you strive to keep constantly in touch with God, so that your love may be ever truer, more fruitful and more enduring.

I would finally like to entrust to the prayers of you all the Apostolic Journey I will make to Germany that begins this Saturday. I thank the Lord for the opportunity he has given me to go to Bavaria, my native Land, for the first time since my election as Bishop of Rome. Please accompany me, dear friends, on my Visit, which I entrust to the Blessed Virgin. May she guide my steps and obtain for the German People a new springtime of faith and civil progress.

Saint Peter's Square

Wednesday, 20 September 2006 - Apostolic Journey to Munich, Altötting and Regensburg

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today, I would like to think back to the various moments of the Pastoral Visit that the Lord granted me to make last week to Bavaria.

In sharing with you my emotions and sentiments on seeing the places dear to me, I feel first of all the need to thank God for having made possible my second Visit to Germany and my first to Bavaria, my native Land.

I am also deeply grateful to all those - Pastors, priests, pastoral workers, public Authorities, organizers, police forces and volunteers - who worked with dedication and patience to ensure that every event would take place as smoothly as possible. As I said on arriving at Munich Airport on Saturday, 9 September, the purpose of my Journey, in memory of those who helped to form my personality, was to reaffirm and strengthen, as Successor of the Apostle Peter, the close bonds that unite the See of Rome with the Church in Germany.

Thus, the Journey was not simply a "return" to the past but also a providential opportunity to look with hope to the future. "Those who believe are never alone": the motto of my Visit was intended as an invitation to reflect on the membership of every baptized person in the one Church of Christ, within which one is never alone but in constant communion with God and with all the brethren.

My first stop was the City of Munich, known as "the Metropolis with a heart" (Weltstadt mit Herz). In its historical centre is the Marienplatz, Mary's Square, in which the "Mariensäule", the Column of Our Lady, stands with a gilded bronze statue of the Virgin Mary on its summit.

I wanted to begin my stay in Bavaria with a tribute to the Patroness of Bavaria, which, for me, assumes a highly significant value: there, in that square and before that image of Mary, about 30 years ago I was welcomed as Archbishop, and it was there that I began my episcopal mission with a prayer to Mary; there I returned at the end of my mandate before leaving for Rome. This time, I wanted to pause again at the foot of the Mariensäule to implore the intercession and blessing of the Mother of God, not only for the City of Munich and Bavaria, but for the entire Church and the whole world.

The next day, Sunday, I celebrated the Eucharist on Neue Messe (the New Tradefair) Esplanade in Munich, with the numerous faithful who had come from various places. Prompted by the Gospel of the day, I reminded everyone that when it comes to God, a "hardness of hearing" exists from which we are suffering especially today.

It is our task, as Christians in a secularized world, to proclaim and to witness to all the message of hope that faith offers us: in the Crucified Jesus, God, the merciful Father, calls us to be his children and to overcome every form of hatred and violence, to contribute to the definitive triumph of love.
God is near

"Make us strong in faith" was the theme of the Sunday afternoon Meeting with the First Holy Communion children and their young families, with the catechists, with the other pastoral workers and with all those who cooperate in the evangelization of the Diocese of Munich.

We celebrated Vespers together in the historical Cathedral, known as the "Cathedral of Our Lady" where the relics of St Benno, Patron of the City, are kept and where in 1977 I was ordained a Bishop.

I reminded the young people and the adults that God is not far from us, in some unreachable place of the universe; on the contrary, in Jesus he made himself close to us to establish with every one a relationship of friendship. Every Christian community, and the parish in particular, is called through the commitment of all its members to become one great family that can move ahead united on the path of true life.

Monday, 11 September, was largely occupied by the Visit to Altötting in the Diocese of Passau. This little town is known as "Herz Bayerns" (the heart of Bavaria), and there the "Black Madonna" is preserved, venerated in the Gnadenkapelle (Chapel of Graces), the destination of many pilgrims from Germany and the nations of Central Europe.

Close by is the Capuchin Friary of St Anne, the home where St Konrad Birndorfer lived, canonized by my venerable Predecessor, Pope Pius XI, in 1934.

With the multitude of the faithful taking part in Holy Mass celebrated in the square outside the Shrine, we reflected together on Mary's role in the work of salvation, to learn from her helpful kindness, humility and generous acceptance of the divine will.

Mary leads us to Jesus: this truth was made even more visible at the end of the divine Sacrifice by the devout procession in which, carrying the statue of Our Lady of Grace, we made our way to the new Chapel of Eucharistic Adoration (Anbetungskapelle), inaugurated for the occasion. The day ended with solemn Marian Vespers in the Basilica of St Anne, Altötting, attended by the Religious and seminarians of Bavaria as well as the Members of the Society for Spiritual Vocations.

The next day, Tuesday, in Regensburg, a Diocese established by St Boniface in 739 and whose Patron is Bishop St Wolfgang, there were three important appointments.

In the morning Holy Mass was celebrated on Islinger Feld Esplanade, during which, taking up the theme of the Pastoral Visit: "Those who believe are never alone", we reflected on the content of the Creed. God, who is Father, wants through Jesus Christ to gather all humanity into a single family, the Church. For this reason the believer is never alone; those who believe must never be afraid of ending up in a blind alley.

Then in the afternoon I went to Regensburg Cathedral, also famous for its choir of treble voices, the "Domspatzen" (cathedral sparrows), which boasts 1,000 years of activity and for 30 years was conducted by my brother Georg. It was there that the ecumenical celebration of Vespers was held in which many representatives of various Churches and Ecclesial Communities in Bavaria took part, together with members of the Ecumenical Commission of the German Bishops' Conference.

This was a providential opportunity to pray together, to hasten full unity among all Christ's disciples and to reaffirm the duty to proclaim our faith in Jesus Christ, without attenuations, but in a clear and integral way and especially in our behaviour of sincere love.

On that day it was a particularly beautiful experience for me to deliver a conference to a large audience of teachers and students at the University of Regensburg, where I taught as professor for many years.

With joy, I was able to meet once again the university world that was my spiritual homeland for a long period of my life. As a theme I had chosen the issue of the relationship between faith and reason.

To introduce my audience to the drama and timeliness of the topic, I cited some words from a 14th-century Christian-Islamic dialogue, with which the Christian interlocutor, the Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Paleologus - in an incomprehensibly brusque way for us - presented to his Islamic interlocutor the problem of relations between religion and violence.

This citation, unfortunately, lent itself to misinterpretation. For the attentive reader of my text, however, it is clear that in no way did I want to make my own the negative words spoken by the Medieval Emperor in this dialogue, and that their polemical content does not express my personal conviction. My intention was quite different: starting with what Manuel II subsequently said in a positive manner, with very beautiful words, about rationality that must guide us in the transmission of faith, I wanted to explain that it is not religion and violence but rather religion and reason that go together.

The topic of my lecture - responding to the mission of the University - was therefore the relationship between faith and reason: I wished to invite [people] to the dialogue of the Christian faith with the modern world and to the dialogue of all the cultures and religions.

I hope that in the various circumstances during my Visit - for example, when in Munich I emphasized how important it is to respect what is sacred to others - that my deep respect for the great religions, and especially for Muslims, who "worship God, who is one" and with whom we are engaged in preserving and promoting together, for the benefit of all men, "peace, liberty, social justice and moral values" (Nostra Aetate
NAE 3), appeared quite clear.

Therefore, I trust that after the immediate reactions, my words at the University of Regensburg will serve as an incentive and an encouragement for a positive, even self-critical dialogue, both between religions and between modern reason and the Christian faith.

The following morning, Wednesday, 13 September, in the "Alte Kapelle" (Old Chapel) of Regensburg, in which a miraculous image of Mary is preserved, painted, according to local tradition, by the Evangelist Luke, I presided at a short Liturgy for the Blessing of the new organ.

Inspired by the structure of this musical instrument that consists of many pipes of various sizes but that all harmonize well with one another, I reminded those present of the need for the various ministries, gifts and charisms active in the Ecclesial Community to converge under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to form one harmony in the praise of God and in fraternal love.

On Thursday, 14 September, my last stop was the City of Freising. I feel a special bond with it because I was ordained a priest precisely in its Cathedral, dedicated to Mary Most Holy and to St Corbinian, the evangelizer of Bavaria.

And the last Meeting planned, with priests and with permanent deacons, took place in the Cathedral itself. Reliving the emotion of my priestly Ordination, I reminded those present of the duty to collaborate with the Lord in inspiring new vocations at the service of the "harvest" which is "plentiful" even today, and I urged them to cultivate the interior life as a pastoral priority in order not to lose contact with Christ, the source of joy in the daily fatigue of the ministry.

At the Farewell Ceremony, once again thanking all those who contributed to the realization of the Visit, I stressed once more its main purpose: to present anew to my fellow citizens the eternal truth of the Gospel, and to strengthen believers in their adherence to Christ, the Incarnate Son of God who died and rose for us.

May Mary, Mother of the Church, help us to open our hearts and minds to the One who is "the Way, and the Truth and the Life" (Jn 14,6).

I prayed for this and for this I invite all of you, dear brothers and sisters, to continue to pray, as I warmly thank you for the affection with which you have accompanied me in my daily pastoral ministry.

My thanks to you all.

To special groups

I warmly welcome all the English-speaking pilgrims present today. In particular, I greet the members of the Society of Missionaries of Africa and the pilgrims from Samoa. Upon you all, I invoke God's abundant Blessings.

Lastly, my thoughts go with special affection to the young people, the sick and the newly-weds. May friendship with Jesus, dear young people, be a source of joy and a support in making demanding decisions; may it be a comfort to you, dear sick people, in difficult times, and may it bring you both physical and mental relief. Dear newly-weds, stay constantly united to Christ to fulfil faithfully your vocation to reciprocal love.

Saint Peter's Square

Wednesday, 27 September 2006 - Thomas the twin

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Continuing our encounters with the Twelve Apostles chosen directly by Jesus, today we will focus our attention on Thomas. Ever present in the four lists compiled by the New Testament, in the first three Gospels he is placed next to Matthew (cf.
Mt 10,3 Mc 3,18 Lc 6,15), whereas in Acts, he is found after Philip (cf. Ac 1,13).

His name derives from a Hebrew root, ta'am, which means "paired, twin". In fact, John's Gospel several times calls him "Dydimus" (cf. Jn 11,16 Jn 20,24 Jn 21,2), a Greek nickname for, precisely, "twin". The reason for this nickname is unclear.

It is above all the Fourth Gospel that gives us information that outlines some important traits of his personality.

The first concerns his exhortation to the other Apostles when Jesus, at a critical moment in his life, decided to go to Bethany to raise Lazarus, thus coming dangerously close to Jerusalem (Mc 10,32).

On that occasion Thomas said to his fellow disciples: "Let us also go, that we may die with him" (Jn 11,16). His determination to follow his Master is truly exemplary and offers us a valuable lesson: it reveals his total readiness to stand by Jesus, to the point of identifying his own destiny with that of Jesus and of desiring to share with him the supreme trial of death.

In fact, the most important thing is never to distance oneself from Jesus.

Moreover, when the Gospels use the verb "to follow", it means that where he goes, his disciple must also go.

Thus, Christian life is defined as a life with Jesus Christ, a life to spend together with him. St Paul writes something similar when he assures the Christians of Corinth: "You are in our hearts, to die together and to live together" (2Co 7,3). What takes place between the Apostle and his Christians must obviously apply first of all to the relationship between Christians and Jesus himself: dying together, living together, being in his Heart as he is in ours.

A second intervention by Thomas is recorded at the Last Supper. On that occasion, predicting his own imminent departure, Jesus announced that he was going to prepare a place for his disciples so that they could be where he is found; and he explains to them: "Where [I] am going you know the way" (Jn 14,4). It is then that Thomas intervenes, saying: "Lord, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?" (Jn 14,5).

In fact, with this remark he places himself at a rather low level of understanding; but his words provide Jesus with the opportunity to pronounce his famous definition: "I am the Way, and the Truth and the Life" (Jn 14,6).

Thus, it is primarily to Thomas that he makes this revelation, but it is valid for all of us and for every age. Every time we hear or read these words, we can stand beside Thomas in spirit and imagine that the Lord is also speaking to us, just as he spoke to him.

At the same time, his question also confers upon us the right, so to speak, to ask Jesus for explanations. We often do not understand him. Let us be brave enough to say: "I do not understand you, Lord; listen to me, help me to understand". In such a way, with this frankness which is the true way of praying, of speaking to Jesus, we express our meagre capacity to understand and at the same time place ourselves in the trusting attitude of someone who expects light and strength from the One able to provide them.

Then, the proverbial scene of the doubting Thomas that occurred eight days after Easter is very well known. At first he did not believe that Jesus had appeared in his absence and said: "Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, and place my finger in the mark of the nails, and place my hand in his side, I will not believe" (Jn 20,25).

Basically, from these words emerges the conviction that Jesus can now be recognized by his wounds rather than by his face. Thomas holds that the signs that confirm Jesus' identity are now above all his wounds, in which he reveals to us how much he loved us. In this the Apostle is not mistaken.

As we know, Jesus reappeared among his disciples eight days later and this time Thomas was present. Jesus summons him: "Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side; do not be faithless, but believing" (Jn 20,27).

Thomas reacts with the most splendid profession of faith in the whole of the New Testament: "My Lord and my God!" (Jn 20,28). St Augustine comments on this: Thomas "saw and touched the man, and acknowledged the God whom he neither saw nor touched; but by the means of what he saw and touched, he now put far away from him every doubt, and believed the other" (In ev. Jo. 121, 5).

The Evangelist continues with Jesus' last words to Thomas: "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe" (Jn 20,29). This sentence can also be put into the present: "Blessed are those who do not see and yet believe".

In any case, here Jesus spells out a fundamental principle for Christians who will come after Thomas, hence, for all of us.

It is interesting to note that another Thomas, the great Medieval theologian of Aquinas, juxtaposed this formula of blessedness with the apparently opposite one recorded by Luke: "Blessed are the eyes which see what you see!" (Lc 10,23). However, Aquinas comments: "Those who believe without seeing are more meritorious than those who, seeing, believe" (In Johann. XX lectio VI 2566).

In fact, the Letter to the Hebrews, recalling the whole series of the ancient biblical Patriarchs who believed in God without seeing the fulfilment of his promises, defines faith as "the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen" (He 11,1).

The Apostle Thomas' case is important to us for at least three reasons: first, because it comforts us in our insecurity; second, because it shows us that every doubt can lead to an outcome brighter than any uncertainty; and, lastly, because the words that Jesus addressed to him remind us of the true meaning of mature faith and encourage us to persevere, despite the difficulty, along our journey of adhesion to him.

A final point concerning Thomas is preserved for us in the Fourth Gospel, which presents him as a witness of the Risen One in the subsequent event of the miraculous catch in the Sea of Tiberias (cf. Jn 21,2ff.).

On that occasion, Thomas is even mentioned immediately after Simon Peter: an evident sign of the considerable importance that he enjoyed in the context of the early Christian communities.

Indeed, the Acts and the Gospel of Thomas, both apocryphal works but in any case important for the study of Christian origins, were written in his name.

Lastly, let us remember that an ancient tradition claims that Thomas first evangelized Syria and Persia (mentioned by Origen, according to Eusebius of Caesarea, Ecclesiastical History 3, 1) then went on to Western India (cf. Acts of Thomas 1-2 and 17ff.), from where also he finally reached Southern India.

Let us end our reflection in this missionary perspective, expressing the hope that Thomas' example will never fail to strengthen our faith in Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Our God.

To special groups

I welcome all the English-speaking pilgrims present today, including participants in the Pauline Colloquium, Friends of L'Osservatore Romano, and the Villa Maria College Choir from Christchurch, New Zealand. I also greet in a special way the Asian Mission Congress Delegates and Pilgrims from Thailand. Upon all of you I invoke God's Blessings of peace and joy!

Today, we are celebrating the World Tourism Day, an important social phenomenon in the contemporary world. I hope that tourism will increasingly further dialogue and reciprocal respect for cultures, thus becoming an open door to peace and harmonious coexistence.

Lastly, as usual, my thoughts go to the young people, the sick and the newly-weds. May the example of charity of St Vincent de Paul, whose memorial we are celebrating today, impel you, dear young people, to implement the plans for your future in a joyful and disinterested service to your neighbour. May it help you, dear sick people, to face suffering as a special vocation to love, and may it prompt you, dear newly-weds, to found a family that is always open to the gift of life and to the poor.

Saint Peter's Square

Wednesday, 4 October 2006 - Bartholomew

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In the series on the Apostles called by Jesus during his earthly life, today it is the Apostle Bartholomew who attracts our attention. In the ancient lists of the Twelve he always comes before Matthew, whereas the name of the Apostle who precedes him varies; it may be Philip (cf.
Mt 10,3 Mc 3,18 Lc 6,14) or Thomas (cf. Ac 1,13).

His name is clearly a patronymic, since it is formulated with an explicit reference to his father's name. Indeed, it is probably a name with an Aramaic stamp, bar Talmay, which means precisely: "son of Talmay".

We have no special information about Bartholomew; indeed, his name always and only appears in the lists of the Twelve mentioned above and is therefore never central to any narrative.

However, it has traditionally been identified with Nathanael: a name that means "God has given".

This Nathanael came from Cana (cf. Jn 21,2) and he may therefore have witnessed the great "sign" that Jesus worked in that place (cf. Jn 2,1-11). It is likely that the identification of the two figures stems from the fact that Nathanael is placed in the scene of his calling, recounted in John's Gospel, next to Philip, in other words, the place that Bartholomew occupies in the lists of the Apostles mentioned in the other Gospels.

Philip told this Nathanael that he had found "him of whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph" (Jn 1,45). As we know, Nathanael's retort was rather strongly prejudiced: "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" (Jn 1,46). In its own way, this form of protestation is important for us. Indeed, it makes us see that according to Judaic expectations the Messiah could not come from such an obscure village as, precisely, Nazareth (see also Jn 7,42).

But at the same time Nathanael's protest highlights God's freedom, which baffles our expectations by causing him to be found in the very place where we least expect him. Moreover, we actually know that Jesus was not exclusively "from Nazareth" but was born in Bethlehem (cf. Mt 2,1 Lc 2,4) and came ultimately from Heaven, from the Father who is in Heaven.

Nathanael's reaction suggests another thought to us: in our relationship with Jesus we must not be satisfied with words alone. In his answer, Philip offers Nathanael a meaningful invitation: "Come and see!" (Jn 1,46). Our knowledge of Jesus needs above all a first-hand experience: someone else's testimony is of course important, for normally the whole of our Christian life begins with the proclamation handed down to us by one or more witnesses.

However, we ourselves must then be personally involved in a close and deep relationship with Jesus; in a similar way, when the Samaritans had heard the testimony of their fellow citizen whom Jesus had met at Jacob's well, they wanted to talk to him directly, and after this conversation they told the woman: "It is no longer because of your words that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Saviour of the world" (Jn 4,42).

Returning to the scene of Nathanael's vocation, the Evangelist tells us that when Jesus sees Nathanael approaching, he exclaims: "Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no guile!" (Jn 1,47). This is praise reminiscent of the text of a Psalm: "Blessed is the man... in whose spirit there is no deceit" (32[31]: 2), but provokes the curiosity of Nathanael who answers in amazement: "How do you know me?" (Jn 1,48).

Jesus' reply cannot immediately be understood. He says: "Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you" (Jn 1,48). We do not know what had happened under this fig tree. It is obvious that it had to do with a decisive moment in Nathanael's life.

His heart is moved by Jesus' words, he feels understood and he understands: "This man knows everything about me, he knows and is familiar with the road of life; I can truly trust this man". And so he answers with a clear and beautiful confession of faith: "Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!" (Jn 1,49). In this confession is conveyed a first important step in the journey of attachment to Jesus.

Nathanael's words shed light on a twofold, complementary aspect of Jesus' identity: he is recognized both in his special relationship with God the Father, of whom he is the Only-begotten Son, and in his relationship with the People of Israel, of whom he is the declared King, precisely the description of the awaited Messiah. We must never lose sight of either of these two elements because if we only proclaim Jesus' heavenly dimension, we risk making him an ethereal and evanescent being; and if, on the contrary, we recognize only his concrete place in history, we end by neglecting the divine dimension that properly qualifies him.

We have no precise information about Bartholomew-Nathanael's subsequent apostolic activity. According to information handed down by Eusebius, the fourth-century historian, a certain Pantaenus is supposed to have discovered traces of Bartholomew's presence even in India (cf. Hist. eccl. V, 10, 3).

In later tradition, as from the Middle Ages, the account of his death by flaying became very popular. Only think of the famous scene of the Last Judgment in the Sistine Chapel in which Michelangelo painted St Bartholomew, who is holding his own skin in his left hand, on which the artist left his self-portrait.

St Bartholomew's relics are venerated here in Rome in the Church dedicated to him on the Tiber Island, where they are said to have been brought by the German Emperor Otto III in the year 983.

To conclude, we can say that despite the scarcity of information about him, St Bartholomew stands before us to tell us that attachment to Jesus can also be lived and witnessed to without performing sensational deeds. Jesus himself, to whom each one of us is called to dedicate his or her own life and death, is and remains extraordinary.

To special groups

I welcome the English-speaking pilgrims present today and I greet especially the Board of Directors of Serra International, the deacon candidates from the North American College and the group of new students from the Beda College. I pray that you will respond generously to the call to discipleship that you have received. May God bless you all.

Lastly, I greet the young people, the sick and the newly-weds. May the shining example of St Francis of Assisi, whose feast we are celebrating today, encourage you, dear young people, to plan your future in total fidelity to the Gospel. May it help you, dear sick people, to face suffering with courage, finding light and comfort in the Crucified Christ. May it lead you, dear newly-weds, to an ever more generous love.

Saint Peter's Square

Audiences 2005-2013 60906