“Instruction does much, but encouragement everything.” - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: (1749 -1832: German writer and statesman)
Scripture Text: (ACTS 11:21B-26; 13:1-3)
In those days a great number who believed turned to the Lord.
The news about them reached the ears of the Church in Jerusalem,
and they sent Barnabas to go to Antioch.
When he arrived and saw the grace of God,
he rejoiced and encouraged them all
to remain faithful to the Lord in firmness of heart,
for he was a good man, filled with the Holy Spirit and faith.
And a large number of people was added to the Lord.
Then he went to Tarsus to look for Saul,
and when he had found him he brought him to Antioch.
For a whole year they met with the Church
and taught a large number of people,
and it was in Antioch that the disciples
were first called Christians.
Now there were in the Church at Antioch prophets and teachers:
Barnabas, Symeon who was called Niger,
Lucius of Cyrene,
Manaen who was a close friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.
While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said,
“Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul
for the work to which I have called them.”
Then, completing their fasting and prayer,
they laid hands on them and sent them off.
Today the Church celebrates a Memorial Mass for the apostle St. Barnabas. Faithful, joyful, and strong, Barnabas was “a good man filled with the Holy Spirit and faith,” a man who embodied Jesus’s guidance that your “yes” mean “yes” and your “no” mean “no.” It is Barnabas’s community in Antioch that first garners the name “Christian,” in part because his community included people as diverse as two North Africans, a former persecutor, and a friend of Herod! This motley crew of fellow travelers on “the Way” crossed so many ethnic, political and social lines that observers had to make up a new name for them: “Christians.”
As a result, the original twelve apostles gave Barnabas a nickname that could not have been more fitting – “the Son of Encouragement”. It is a nickname we all should strive to bear. To be called Barnabas is to set aside our shallow egos in order to discern the needs of those shoved to the margins, the invisible and forgotten, the ostracized – and like Barnabas, to be able to see in them the grace of God and rejoice.