June 11, 2022
Creighton University's Law School
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Memorial of Saint Barnabas, Apostle
Lectionary: 580/364

Acts 11:21b-26; 12:1-3
Psalm 98:1, 2-3ab, 3cd-4, 5-6
Matthew 5:33-37

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Today’s readings accompany the memorial of Saint Barnabas.  We know a few things about Saint Barnabas from the biblical record.  He was a Jew of the priestly class from Cyprus who was a follower of Jesus.  In Acts 4:36-37, he sold a piece of property and gave the proceeds to the Apostles for distribution among needy Christians.  His name means “encourager”, a trait that was certainly valued in the early Church, which regularly faced hardships and persecution.  Barnabas is referred to as an Apostle along with Paul, although neither of them was among the original Twelve chosen by our Lord.  See Acts 14:14.

Barnabas’ cousin was the Apostle Mark (sometimes referred to as John Mark).  Mark apparently needed more encouragement in his life, as at one point on a missionary journey he grew weary and returned to Jerusalem, abandoning Paul and Barnabas.  See Acts 13:13. Thereafter Paul refused to travel with Mark.  Barnabas disagreed, arguing that Mark deserved another chance.  Paul and Barnabas agreed to disagree and each traveled separately, thereby allowing Barnabas to take Mark along with him.  See Acts 15:36-39.  Barnabas, the encourager, was true to his name.  He did not give up on Mark, even when it caused a separation of two friends. But perhaps Paul deserves some credit here, too.  After all, he allowed each one to follow his own commitment.  When deep disagreements arise, charity is better path than continuing a conflict.   

In today’s first reading, we see Barnabas encouraging the Christians in Antioch.  St. Luke characterizes Barnabas quite simply as “a good man, filled with the Holy Spirit and faith”.   It is said that a good man is hard to find, but some of them are out there.  I am drawn to this simple description, which seems a worthy aspiration.  Barnabas rejoices in what is good and he offers encouragement to the Christians in Antioch.  From a human perspective, isn’t it easier to see goodness in people who are upbeat?  Those tasked with a prophetic role are not always appreciated in the same way.  But it takes all kinds of gifts for the Church to fulfill its mission.  Sometimes we need a voice of no and stop; at other times the voice of yes and keep going.

Today’s gospel contains an admonition from Jesus that brings us to the core of being good, not just maintaining appearances.  He tells them not to take oaths, which are all about show.  Instead, just do what you say.  Let your yes be yes, your no be no.  Be true to what you profess.  Show it, don’t just say it.  This is a tall order for those of us who make their living with words, as well as for the rest of us who know that saying is often easier than doing.  But we are called to this hard truth today.

Lord, when we are weary, send Barnabas the encourager to help us along.  Help us to embrace his encouragement and to keep going in our life journeys, not giving up.  Like Barnabas, help us also to see the potential in others, even when they might fail us.  And like Paul, let us find a way to make peace with those who disagree with us.  And when we hear hard truths that may prove difficult for us to follow, let us not reject the messenger.  Instead, let us train our ears to hear your love calling out to us in the midst of that truth.  Thanks be to God.

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