We celebrate St Barnabas who is described as Son of Encouragement. We do not know if this is his real name, or a nickname, but what he did as narrated in the First Reading shows us he is someone who encourages people because when he came to Antioch and saw the grace of God, he rejoiced and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast devotion. Luke continues to describe Barnabas was full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. Perhaps the greatest proof he is someone who encourages people is his taking a risk with Saul of Tarsus. Acts 9:27 tells us immediately after Saul’s conversion, he came to Jerusalem and joined the disciples. Since Saul was known to persecute the believers, they would not believe him to be a disciple. Barnabas vouched for Saul and presented him to the apostles. But when Saul’s life was threatened by Gentiles whom he disputed with, he was sent back to Tarsus and stayed there until Barnabas brought him to Antioch. While Barnabas was the leader of their group, years pass and Barnabas willingly faded to the background as Saul, who is now called Paul became more prominent.
Barnabas shows us what a true leader is:
- He rejoices in the movement of the grace of God. As Christians, our goal is to encourage people so they can grow in their relationship with God. Like Barnabas, we need to be willing to let others become more prominent.
- He exhorted them to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast devotion. Barnabas did not demand obedience to himself. Instead, he encourages people to remain faithful to the Lord. Being faithful includes fidelity to the teaching of the Lord as transmitted by the Apostles.
The desire of Barnabas to encourage people also caused his split with Paul. Barnabas wanted to take his nephew Mark who left them in their travels years ago to give Mark another chance. But Paul did not agree. The discussion was so intense, it broke their relationship. But we see in one of the letters of Paul commending Mark. We would think Paul reconciled with Mark and Barnabas later.
As Christians, we are to encourage people in their condition. In the Gospel today, Jesus commands his Apostles to cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. Christianity is not about laws and rituals. It is about God who became man, to raise up the human raise to live with him. This act of God shows what encouragement is: to raise people to their original dignity. Sadly, people equate their dignity with their condition in life. They think when they are sick, or when they live in sin, when they are rejected by society or have done evil things, they have lost their dignity. The fact is, we have dignity just be existing, by living. No matter what our condition is, God still sees us as human beings worthy of redemption by the Blood of his Son.
Nothing, not any thing, can take that dignity away and everyone deserves a chance to redemption. No matter what crime you committed, no matter how sinful you are, no matter what sin you have done, you are still a human being, created in the image of God, deserving life and redemption. No one is beyond redemption and as long as there is breath, there is always hope that a person will repent because God’s life is in that person.
Barnabas and all the Apostles have preached that since the time of the early Church: we are created in God’s image and God calls us to himself so we can live with him. The Psalm tells us: the Lord has revealed to the nations his saving power. The Church proclaims this saving power is Jesus Christ and he is near to those who call him.
Lord Jesus, I sometimes find it hard to believe, I am created in God’s image. In the midst of my miseries, remind me Lord, of what you have done for me. Heal me, raise me when I am overwhelmed by my situation, wipe away my sins and cast out the evil within me. Jesus, let me hear you call me to come to you. Let me see the victory of your death and resurrection. Let me share in that victory.
St Barnabas, pray for me, that I may have courage to approach Jesus my Lord.