Tomorrow we celebrate the commemoration of Saint Barnabas —one of the early apostles, though not one of the twelve—there are two things I’d like to call to your attention.
The first is that, as we are told in the first reading of today’s Mass, it was at Antioch in Syria that the followers of Jesus were first called “Christians.” What does that really tell us? It tells us that those very early followers of Our Lord recognized the fact that Jesus of Nazareth was in fact the promised Savior, the Redeemer, the Anointed one. You see, in the Old Testament, the ceremonial act of pouring oil over someone—that is, anointing him—indicated a special mission or mandate being given to that person relative to the will of God. It had been promised that an anointed Redeemer would one day come to undo the damage done by the sin of Adam and Eve. That future person was referred to as the Anointed One; in Hebrew, that word is “Messiah.” In Greek, it is rendered “Christ.” So when the people of Antioch began to call the followers of Jesus “Christians,” it means that they recognized that Jesus was the Christ—the Anointed One—the Messiah. And his followers were those of Christ, or Christians. It is a beautiful title, of which we can be very proud.
Then, I would like to point out to you that Saint Barnabas, whom we commemorate tomorrow, was chosen by the Holy Spirit to join with Saint Paul to do some of the first-generation evangelism of the young Church. They spent several years doing that and then—sad to say—they had a disagreement and separated, each going his own way in his missionary travels. They disagreed over a third of the early apostles, John Mark, the author of the second gospel. It seems that earlier on, John Mark, or Saint Mark as we know him, had left them for some reason. So later when Barnabas wanted to take him with them on another missionary journey, Saint Paul wouldn’t agree. In fact, Paul tells us that their disagreement became “so sharp” that they decided to go their separate ways: Paul with Silas and Barnabas with Mark. So you see, even the saints occasionally disagree on something. We are all human; we see things from our own point of view. And those points of view don’t always agree or harmonize. It just goes to show you that even holy people can differ on how something is to be done. We find this in families, in religious life, in the priesthood, in a parish, in a diocese, in a nation, and of course in the world, where there is always war going on somewhere.
The moral of the story is that we must be very careful of being stubborn, and assuming that MY way is the best way or only way, that those who disagree with ME are necessarily wrong, and that I must cling to my own opinion even to the point of accusing “those others” of being stupid, or malicious, or a danger to us and others. We’ve all known people who insisted on having their own way, regardless of how much trouble this caused. And maybe we ourselves are in that category at times. And therefore, we should pray often with the Church: “Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make my heart like unto yours.” Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.
Note: This message was composed some years ago.