Learning from Barnabas, “son of encouragement”.





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According to Acts, Barnabas was a wonderful person.  He was a true Apostle in the early church, although not one of the original Twelve around Jesus at the Last Supper. Barnabas and Paul were specifically chosen by God to spread the Good News about our salvation in Jesus Christ.   Beyond this point of the narrative, Barnabas travels and preaches and suffers with Paul.  Later Paul continues with Silas, and the rest of Barnabas’s story goes unrecorded.

God gave Barnabas many gifts. Barnabas used all of them for Jesus. So God kept pouring out more gifts upon Barnabas as Barnabas kept pouring out his life in loving service to God. He used whatever gifts he had to serve God. Give your entire self to the Lord. He will bear fruit through you and then give you even more.

Barnabas was sent by the church of Jerusalem to the new converts in Antioch. He was so successful in serving this church that “it was in Antioch that the disciples were called Christians for the first time” (Acts 11:26). Antioch was also the first church to send out missionaries. It is one of the most important churches in the history of Christianity. Barnabas’ historic success in Antioch was primarily because of his gift of encouragement. His name was even changed from Joseph to Barnabas, meaning “son of encouragement”.

How do we spend our time on earth? St. Barnabas doesn’t have a monopoly on sharing an encouraging word. Think back to brothers and sisters in Christ who have “encouraged and pleaded with you to make your lives worthy of the God Who calls you to His kingship and glory”. Where would most of us be without encouragers in our lives?

Many of us want to bring renewal and evangelization to our parishes, schools, workplaces, or any other community, but we feel powerless because we are not the pastor, director of religious education, or school principal. However, we can make an invaluable contribution to renewing that community, not only by leading or teaching, but by encouraging. If you will encourage the fainthearted to persevere, and the strong to step out in faith, you will be a catalyst for the renewal of your parish/school/ workplace etc and even for world evangelization.

Today’s first reading relates how St. Barnabas, upon seeing the new Christian converts, “rejoiced and encouraged them all to remain faithful to the Lord in firmness of heart.”

His joy is understandable, but already Barnabas is telling them to remain faithful! As a seasoned follower of Christ, he knew how easy it would be for them to turn back to their old ways, their old friends perhaps, or old habits.

It was crucial for the new converts to change how they thought, how they spoke, how they acted. Their hearts had to become strong and firm and faithful to their new Lord. That is why the apostle “encouraged them all to remain faithful to the Lord in firmness of heart.”

Are we faithful to the Lord? Are our hearts firm in following Christ? No matter how long we have been following Jesus, we must remember to stay faithful!

After all, as Jesus tells us in today’s Gospel, we are “the salt of the earth.” So we must not lose our “saltiness,” so to speak. We must persevere in our faithfulness to the Lord, to “season” those around us.


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