Grace to you!
Many times, a dig into history unearths priceless information. History is rich. Such was my recent discovery about a few more details concerning the life of Saint Bartholomew (one of the Apostles of Jesus Christ). Information about many of his missionary activities in India is scant. The claim by some authors that his impact in a community caused havoc to the god of the land is interesting. Hope you wouldn’t mind if I shared the story.
The 18th century writers Robert A. Donaldson and A.C. Cox who wrote in 1886, furnished us with some stories about Bartholomew. Though there could be doubts as to the veracity or otherwise of their claims, their account about the Apostle Bartholomew could inspire your prayerful contemplation. You will find their edited prose “Martyrdom of the Holy and Glorious Apostle Bartholomew,’ in Volume 8 of The Ante-Nicene Fathers: Fathers of the Third and Fourth Centuries: The Twelve Patriarchs, Excerpts and Epistles, the Clementina, Apocrypha, Decretals, Memoirs of Edessa and Syriac Documents, Remains of the First Ages, translated by A. Walker.
Though a very old document and some of the details may not be collaborated by other sources, it has some information that can open up some themes for discussion. Since my goal in my daily reflections isn’t an academic exercise, I will leave out the critical evaluation of the style and the content of the story, but share it for our spiritual enrichment. It has some rich food for thought.
The gist may inspire us in our communion with the saints, those who have gone before us marked with the sign of faith. Stories of the saints provide us with models of Christian life for emulations. We need those models, don’t we?
According to the above authors, Bartholomew came to India as one of the poor pilgrims quartered in the temple of the Indian god Astaruth. Astaruth was claimed to be the god of healing, so the sick of the region flocked to its temple for healing. It was claimed that this god healed people so as to make them dependent on its manipulative powers.
The presence of Bartholomew within the territory of the god caused havoc. The power of Astaruth to heal ceased. Its prophets couldn’t perform magic or miracles anymore. When the temple was filled with the sick and worshipers came to receive oracles and miracles from the god, Astaruth was dumb. It could neither speak nor heal.
Distressed, Astaruth’s messengers decided to travel to another city to consult with a superior oracle from a more prominent god called Becher. This “god forum shopping,” as I will call it, sounds familiar doesn’t it?
When the people consulted with the oracle of Becher, they were told that a man who is the worshiper of the Almighty God, who dwells in heaven, lives in their territory and his presence has bound the power of Astaruth, making it impossible for the god to heal.
Following a description of the man who is responsible for this havoc, the people realized that it was Bartholomew. To make a long story short, they approached Bartholomew for help and their search was followed by unprecedented miracles. The result was the rejection of their god and the profession of faith in Jesus Christ. About 10,000 were converted, including the King of the region along with his entire household.
The news of these conversions was met with great opposition by a brother of the king, who himself was the king of another Indian territory, and many of the followers of Astaruth. He ordered that Bartholomew be beaten with rods and beheaded, although some suggest Bartholomew was flayed alive or crucified upside down.
Whatever the correct version of the story is, we draw from the life of Bartholomew what is common to all the apostles – namely, the desire to bear witness to Jesus Christ as the Savior. Despite the risk of losing their lives, they dared to evangelize.
Does the story of this Apostle teach us anything about the impact of the presence of a holy person in a community? What if our presence could bring the fresh air of God’s Spirit and renew the face of the earth? I pray this will be the case. Amen
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
Fr. Maurice Emelu, Ph.D.
Father Maurice provides a daily blog of reflections based on Scriptural readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration and developing your own thoughts. It may also be helpful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.