Today’s Calendar commemorates St. Bartholomew, one of the twelve disciples who became an apostle; that is, “one who is sent.” Tradition has it that he traveled very far as a missionary—to the outer edges of the Parthian empire, which included what is now Iraq and Iran. He may have gone even further, past Iran to India. Apparently he also went to Armenia, farther to the west and north of the edge of Iran. With his fellow apostle Thaddeus, Bartholomew is recognized by the Armenian Apostolic Church as one of its two founding patron saints. Tradition says that he was martyred in Armenia by being flayed alive, and that is how he is represented in iconography. There is also a tradition that he may have traveled to Ethiopia.
However he may have died and wherever he may have gone, a main point for us today can be that Bartholomew’s life as an apostle took him very far from familiar life in Galilee. And yet, as Jesus said to the apostles in the “Great Commission” just before His Ascension, “Go and make disciples of all nations . . . and remember I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28. 19-20). No matter how far Bartholomew’s apostolic journeys took him from his original home, Jesus was with him all the way.
Today as we are called to our own apostolates, commissioned in our Baptism to bear witness to Jesus in our present time and place, Jesus assures us that He is with us now. Whether our own missionary journeys take us near to home or far away, Jesus is with us always, just as He was for His faithful follower Bartholomew so long ago.
The Rev. Charles Hoffacker is a retired priest of the Diocese of Washington