I've been meditating on the Gospel [John 1:45-51] for yesterday's feast of Saint Batholomew (Nathaniel) - in relation to the 32nd anniversary yesterday of my reception into the novitiate. At the moment, at least, I can hardly think of a better choice of Gospel for anyone's entry into Religious Life.
Philip finds Nathaniel and tells him about Jesus. Nathaniel is skeptical - especially given Jesus' rural Galilean origins. Eventually, he meets Jesus, who impresses him by his (presumably supernatural) prior knowledge of Nathaniel, who then jumps from extreme skepticism to ostentatious belief. But the link between the two scenes - what makes the story so special - is Philip's initial response to Nathaniel's skepticism: "Come and see."
Most of us never experience anything like Nathaniel's personal encounter with Jesus. For most of us, the Christian life is a long, often uneven process of coming and seeing. Certainly religious life is a lot less like Nathaniel's instant transformation into a committed disciple than most of us, the day of our reception into the novitiate, might have imagined. As with Nathaniel's coming to Jesus, coming to the novitiate was a step. But the seeing part was a lot less quick and clear and complete. In fact, so limited and partial and clouded and at times even contradictory can be one's experience of seeing that the whole process requires multiple and repeated re-commitments to the journey - recommitments to coming so as someday to see fully and completely, widely and deeply.
The ultimate fruit of the process of coming and seeing that is religious life - that is any authentic disciple's vocation - is in eternity what Nathaniel saw. For now, however, the true test and fruit of our coming and seeing is that, as a result, one takes on Philip's role and becomes and apostle calling others to come and see, leading others to come and showing them what to see.