Today’s Gospel: John 1:43-51, Memorial of Saint John Neumann
I’ve always loved this story about St. Nathaniel. Even though the synoptic Gospels only list him under his Greek name, Bartholomew, St. John gives us greater insight into the man known also as Nathaniel. When his friend Philip presents Nathaniel to Jesus, Jesus declares, “This man is a true Israelite. There is no guile in him.” Nathaniel is confused as to how Jesus knows him, but Jesus reveals: “Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.” Nathaniel immediately recognizes Jesus as the Son of God and the king of Israel.
It always makes me wonder – what was Nathaniel doing under that fig tree?
Perhaps he was praying, talking to God. Maybe, not long before meeting Jesus, Nathaniel had done something wrong. Perhaps, like the first Israel (Jacob), he took something that didn’t belong to him. The sin itself isn’t revealed, nor is it important. What is important is the contrition he felt.
With true sorrow, Nathaniel may have fled to the fig tree to pray and express his sorrow. Psalm 32 comes to his mind. Hearing it from his youth recited over and over at the temple, he knows it by heart. This time, he really prays it. “I said, ‘I confess my faults to the Lord,’ and you took away the guilt of my sin” (Ps. 32:5).
Then he meets Jesus. Jesus had heard his prayer. “Happy the man to whom the Lord imputes not guilt, in whose spirit there is no guile” (Ps 32:2). How could this be? Unless…this man is “the Son of God; the king of Israel,” the Messiah who has come to save us from our slavery to sin.
The joy and peace that comes from knowing one’s sins have truly been forgiven was Nathaniel’s – and it is ours with every confession.
When is the next time I can get to the sacrament of Reconciliation?
Loving Jesus, thank you for coming into the world to save me from my sins. Thank you for the Sacrament of Reconciliation which cleanses the guile from my soul. Amen.
Copyright 2017 Kelly Guest