Daily Reflection
June 11th, 2007

Brian Kokensparger

Arts & Sciences
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A television show called "Behind the Music" here in the United States used to document how some of the famous rock bands got started, how the bands were managed when they became famous, and how the bands broke up (if the bands did, indeed, break up, which they usually did on this show).

The three segments of the show always played out like a movie, or a Shakespearean wheel of fortune: In the first segment, the band was usually a ragtag collection of passionate individuals that just wanted to rock. It lived on and for the music that it created. It was hungry, physically and artistically. It played in smelly bars and taverns, and at birthday parties for kids. It paid its dues.

In the middle section, the band usually persisted until it caught some kind of lucky break. Then it took off. Exploded on the scene. Became the group that everyone wanted to see, and everyone talked about. Of course, there were always growing pains that came with the fame; segment two of the show covered how those little twists and turns were managed. If they were managed well, the second segment covered a number of years. If they weren't managed well, that segment covered, optimistically, a few months. It seemed that much of the source of disagreement usually centered around two polar groups: those who wanted to stay hungry, to continue to "push the envelope" in music, and those who wanted to cash in on their fame and go commercial to maximize the profit margin.

In the third segment, egos and short tempers usually clashed to break up the band.

St. Barnabas was a "rock star" among the early Christian community. As we can see from the first reading, he was sent to Antioch by the Church in Jerusalem to work with the growing throng of believers there. He was then sent to Tarsus to find Saul and bring him back. He did, and the "band" was assembled, one that would rock the western world for centuries to come.

By the end of the first reading, we are told that Barnabas and Saul are set apart from the others, put together as a team, and sent off. Their first tour included cities on the island of Cyprus, and then to the mainland for stops in Pamphylia and Lycaonia. In each place where they preached, they created a stir, to say the least. They were often threatened with stoning. They were perceived as gods in Lycaonia, where the priest of Zeus brought bulls to sacrifice to them. Paul was eventually stoned by rabble-rousers there, and left for dead.

Such was the first tour of that great partnership of Barnabas and Paul. There would be others, which resulted in the Christian faith "exploding on the scene."

Just as with the television show, though, the third segment had to take place. In Acts 15, there was a "disagreement," and the team broke up. Barnabas headed to Cyprus with John (also called Mark), Paul teamed up with Silas and headed to Syria. This great team that had brought the truth of the death and resurrection of Christ to thousands was no more.

So what can we learn from all of this?

It seems that those bands that stayed "hungry" often did not break up at all. Those that became complacent, or behaved as if fame and fortune were a birthright, did not last very long.

Now I'm not saying that's what happened to Paul and Barnabas. We cannot assume that from a few lines of Scripture. But the pattern matches.

The solution is in the Gospel passage for today:
. . . poor in spirit . . . they who mourn . . . the meek . . . they who hunger and thirst for righteousness . . . the merciful . . . the clean of heart . . . the peacemakers . . . they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness . . .

Today is St. Barnabas' feast day because, for most of their ministry period, he and Paul focused on the beatitudes and left themselves behind. We don't know what really broke up that "band," but I wonder what other great things would have been accomplished, had the two stayed together.

Is there an area in our own lives where we are just coasting, where we are no longer "hungry?" How many of us are in partnerships that are foundering, be they creative partnerships, marriages, business partnerships, etc.? Could they be problematic because we are no longer "hungry" to produce the best combined effort we can produce? Are we acting like spoiled rock stars?

If so, perhaps we should spend some time today with the beatitudes. Better yet, put them on the agenda of our next team meeting. See what kind of "stir" we can create. What can we expect to come of this?

. . . the Kingdom of heaven . . . comfort . . . inheriting the land . . . satisfaction . . . being shown mercy . . . seeing God . . . becoming children of God . . . a reward that will be great in heaven.

Isn't that enough for anyone?

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