Acts of the Apostles is a reminder that the Risen Christ has always been found in the community of his Church.
The beginning of Saint Paul’s missionary work did not begin with the apostles in Jerusalem. Rather, the beginnings of a new religion began with the lay people in the Church of Antioch in Syria. This community of believers was founded by the lay people who were escaping persecution in Jerusalem which arose because of Stephen’s profession in Christ. Barnabas comes to these lay people, sees them filled with the grace of God, rejoices and encourages them to remain faithful to the Lord in firmness of heart (Acts 11:23). Barnabas saw the immense work of the lay people in bringing the news of the Resurrection to those considered the outsiders and unclean.
If we look back to Acts 9:27-30, we see how it is Barnabas who took charge of Saul in Jerusalem and brought Saul to the apostles to testify of his conversion in the Risen Christ. Here again, Barnabas rejoiced in what he saw in someone like Saul, a former enemy of Christ, and encouraged him to remain faithful to Christ as the apostles sent him to Tarsus.
At the end of the First Reading, Barnabas returns to Tarsus to seek out Saul and to bring him to the Church at Antioch in Syria. For a whole year they taught large numbers of lay people and it was there that these who followed the Way, were now called Christians. For the rest of this week, we will hear of the first of four missionary journeys of Saint Paul. Acts of the Apostles is a reminder that the Risen Christ has always been found in the community of his Church.
Being members of the Church speaks of our personal communion with its head. In today’s Gospel, Jesus states, “My sheep hear my voice ; I know them and they follow me” (John 10:27). The Risen One does not remain a stagnant deity in the heavens. We are in dynamic relationship with him who constantly calls us to work for his kingdom. We are reassured that we have nothing to fears, as the first Christians, because we belong to him and no one can take us out of his hand because no enemy of God is greater than God.
The first Christians encountered God in the community established by lay people. We encounter God in that same Church with nothing to fear since he protects us with his rod and staff. So what is the take away? Barnabas.
Barnabas’ name means Son of Encouragement or Son of Consolation. Barnabas saw the gifts in Saul, even amidst his past imperfections, and called Saul to help build the young Church. Barnabas calling Saul to ministry was like the sheep who recognized the voice of its shepherd.
Can we be the modern day Barnabas, sons and daughters of encouragement? Be the face of God’s mercy to others. See their goodness and gifts, rejoice in them, and encourage them to honor those gifts to strengthen the body of Christ. Acts of the Apostles is a reminder that the Risen Christ has always been found in the community of his Church. Since this is where he is found, we do what our older siblings have done since the beginning, we recognize him in the breaking of the bread.