June 11: Memorial of Saint Barnabas, Apostle

Posted by Campus Ministry on Thursday, June 11, 2020 at 6:00 AM PDT

a close up of a person's legs wearing hiking boots and crossing a wooden bridge

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Today we remember Saint Barnabas, a leader in the early church, well known as a missionary companion to Saul (Paul).

Our readings today remind us that Barnabas and his fellow faith leaders were gifted at reading the signs of the times through the light of faith. Barnabas was sent on a mission by the church in Jerusalem to investigate what was happening in Antioch, where faith in Jesus was spreading beyond the Jewish community. In the context of persecution and dispersion, the early church in Jerusalem might have been suspicious of such an expansion beyond the familiar.

While the spreading of faith in Jesus to a non-Jewish community might have been beyond Barnabas’ imagination, we hear that he was able to recognize the community’s faith as “the grace of God,” which allowed him to respond by “rejoic[ing] and encourage[ing] them all to remain faithful to the Lord in firmness of heart.” He then took action to invite Saul to assist the Antiochian faith community, investing deeply in the good work God was doing in Antioch.  Later, as the community grew, the leaders of the Antiochian community, through prayer and fasting, discerned a new call for Saul and Barnabas, to be missionaries beyond Antioch, beginning a series of journeys that would lead to the gospel being spread to many. Our reading tells us that it was through these efforts at Antioch that the church became know as Christian – a distinct emerging community of faith.  

As I consider the Word today, I am struck with gratitude for Barnabas’ openness to the Spirit working in the world. Over and over in today’s reading we find Barnabas responding to the prompting of the Holy Spirit to venture into new territory, both physically, and spiritually. He allows God’s grace to defy his expectations, and says yes to the mission he receives from God through the community of faith. Barnabas embodied Jesus' invitation to a life of discipleship that we encounter in our Gospel today. Barnabas was an encourager (instiller of hope, confidence, courage) for the early communities of faith, and his name was given to him by the early church because it meant "son of encouragement" (Acts 4:36). He approached newness and God's grace with an open heart, and was able to be a true partner with the Holy Spirit’s work in the world. Just like Barnabas, our baptism calls us to be disciples who are sent forth as bearers of good news (apostles). Are we open to the new ways of the Holy Spirit working in our world and our church today? Do we have the capacity to read the signs of the times, and respond to God’s promptings? Are we willing to be surprised by God's action in our world? 

Let us pray through the intercession of St. Barnabas, that we, as a church, may have the grace to be attentive to our current moment. That especially when God’s grace appears to be bearing fruit in ways beyond our imagination, inviting us into the unknown, that we may respond with joy and encouragement, courageously partnering with the work of the Holy Spirit in our world.

 

JoAnn Lopez, Campus Minister for Liturgy and Resident Minister