Jesus calls Nathaniel, believed to be the apostle Bartholomew in the other gospels, (Bartholomew and Nathaniel being the same person) by name and Nathaniel questions Jesus as to how He knows his name; they have never met each other. Jesus responds by saying he saw him under a FIG tree. Nathaniel immediately believes that Jesus has been sent by God.
Why mention the FIG tree? It’s a detail scholars have pondered for centuries. All I know is that I love figs, a trait having nothing to do with the gospel; I just like them. When walking across Spain, I encountered a number of fig trees, filled with luscious figs. Many of us kept shaking the branches we could reach to collect the fallen figs. As I looked closely, the tree was FILLED with figs, layer after layer.
Like the fig tree abundant with hidden fruit in the higher reaches of the tree, our search for God, seemingly hidden, reveals a never ending source of “encounter.” In our relationship with God, we are always being called to go deeper, under the surface of life, to discover yet one more “fig!” LIFE!!!
Now, when I think of Bartholomew/Nathaniel, whose Feast is today, I will think of figs, and fig trees with abundant fruit, sweet, delicious fruit. And I will think of this man named Nathaniel as the one Jesus describes as a person having no “guile,” innocent and without duplicity.
Our search for God is one like an adventure, introducing us to new encounters and people. The more we search with open hearts and open eyes, the more “fruit” we find. A disciple of Jesus can’t be duplicitous, meaning hypocritical and manipulative. We are called to be truly sincere and transparent in how we interact with people and the world. We are called to BE who we say we are: a disciple of Jesus wanting others to encounter Christ in us, in our demeanor, in our actions.
I think I need to go out and get some fig newton cookies!!!!