Today is the Feast of Saint Barnabas. We know some things about him as written in the Acts of the Apostle.
He was a Cypriot Jew. He is called an Apostle (not one of the twelve) in Acts 14:14. He introduced Saint Paul to the Apostles. He was a companion to Saint Paul on many of his missionary journeys.
Paul and Barnabas had a disagreement involving Barnarbus’ nephew (or cousin), Mark.
Both Paul and Barnabas are great Apostles and missionaries. It is encouraging to know that even great Saints can disagree.
Being a Saint does not make one perfect. Saints are human beings. There is no such thing as ‘readymade’ Saints.
I was reflecting on the Queen’s Birthday Honours this week. Many of the names are of people who have contributed in a very significant way to the welfare of society. It is right to acknowledge the good that people do. It does not necessarily mean that they have been perfect human beings all their life.
We all make mistakes. We know that all sin in various ways. We also know that people can grow. It is very important to celebrate that human beings prone to weakness can make decisions to grow.
It is also important to celebrate what the Grace of God can do in weak human beings.
It is good to have role models of hope. It is possible to live a life of integrity and virtue, and to leave past mistakes behind.
Jesus certainly believed this and called people to very significant ministries who had previously made some big mistakes.
Barnabas supported Paul and recommended him to the church community after Paul’s conversion. Paul had taken part in the killing of the first Christian martyr, Stephen, and had been determined to destroy the young Christian church.
In the church community we are called to model love and commitment to each other, and to Jesus and His teachings.
No one can do this perfectly. Just as Paul and Barnabas disagreed with each other, so can we.
In any family, sometimes at least for some time, there have been moments when we did not like the people we love! Hopefully we never give up on a member of our family and continue loving each other.
This is certainly part of our Christian calling.
In the church we may disagree with each other on a number of issues, emphasis, priorities, etc. If we want to be faithful to Jesus, we do not give up on each other.
Love is commitment. To truly love does not mean that we have to be best friends. We truly love when we are respectful, want good for the other, forgive, hope for their healing and wholeness.
Of course, it is not easy to forgive one who has truly hurt you. Then we go to the Lord and ask for help.
God can do what we cannot do and help us to do what we did not think possible.