Posted by: fvbcdm | June 11, 2013

Feast of Saint Barnabas (11 June 2013)

Today we celebrate the commemoration of Saint Barnabas, one of the companions of Saint Paul in his missionary activities during the first century of Christianity. Barnabas is mentioned several times in the New Testament, and in the first eucharistic prayer of the Mass.  It’s interesting that the name “Barnabas” means “Son of Encouragement.”  It is not known exactly how he got that name, but it’s certainly a GOOD name since encouragement is one of the most useful services that one can perform for another.

Those of us in the clerical field as well as counselors, parents, and teachers, are frequently called upon to encourage others.  I often think of encouragement like a wind at sea. Back in the days of the sailing ships, the sailors were largely dependent upon the tides to get them into and out of port, and then upon the winds to propel their ship across the sea. They learned to use the wind skillfully so that, by positioning their sails in certain ways, they could capture enough wind to make their ships go in the desired direction regardless of the direction in which the wind was blowing. By trimming sails and by tacking, they could make the most of wind power.

But then, once in a while, they would come to a place at sea where was absolutely no wind at all. Those places are called the doldrums, and they were the bane of every sailor’s existence because sometimes a ship would remain totally motionless at sea for days on end, with the sailors hoping and praying for wind. Sometimes, they would even go to the extreme of deploying one or more of their lifeboats manned by a number of the sailors, who would then row laboriously in the hope of pulling the ship out of the doldrums into an area where there was a breeze.

We use the term “in the doldrums” figuratively to mean that we are discouraged, sad, despondent, depressed. And then, if we can receive some encouragement from some source, it’s like a wonderfully welcome gust of wind that sweeps across the sea, fills a vessel’s sails, and off they go toward their destination, rejoicing in the progress they’re making.

Each of us has known doldrums. Each of us needs encouragement from time to time. That’s when friends, counselors, parents, and others of wisdom and prudence can be so helpful.  Above all, that’s when God can be so helpful! Time and again in the scriptures, we hear the divine command “Don’t be afraid!”  Keep going.  Put one foot before the other.  So often, I have said to people, next week, or maybe next month, you will feel very different.  It’ll be better. Place your life into the wounded hands of Jesus. Trust him. Ask for his help, and then open yourself to receive it.  Think of the sails of a great ship bellying in a good, stiff breeze at sea after the doldrums.  That’s what we all need; that’s what God will give us if we ask him. Saint Barnabas, son of encouragement, fill our minds and hearts with hope and assurance!  Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note:  Father Brown composed this message some years ago.

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