Today’s the feast of St. Barnabas. We in the diocese have a church that bears this patron, so let’s keep them in prayer today. St Barnabas’ name at birth was Joseph, but he became known as Barnabas because that name translates to “son of encouragement.” Today’s readings are filled with stories of those he encouraged. He encouraged folks in Jerusalem and then in Antioch. Scripture says this: “When he arrived [in Antioch] and saw the grace of God, he rejoiced and encouraged them all to remain faithful to the Lord in firmness of heart, for he was a good man, filled with the Holy Spirit and faith.”
Barnabas, in finding folks who weren’t quite living examples of perfection, 1) rejoiced at what was good and then 2) gently encouraged them to be better. This is an important message for us, for we who come across “cafeteria Catholics” or those we might be tempted to judge. The first thing we are to do when we come across such folks is realize, as Barnabas did, that we are works in progress as well. Then we rejoice in what is good in the other, and then we gently encourage him to do better.
There is a temptation to simply jump to correct, as the Pharisees are quick to do in the Gospel today much to the chagrin of the Good Lord, but Barnabas’ example reminds us that much more fruit comes from encouraging. We’ve already looked at the multitudes of people–those who were named Christians for hte first time after Barnabas had encouraged (not corrected) them–but what about St. Paul?? Barnabas encouraged Paul when he first set out on his missionary journeys, which at first bore little fruit. Barnabas was there to keep nudging him forward. Now for 2000 years, folks have read Paul’s words every day, and through his words Paul has changed billions and billions of lives down through the centuries. All because Barnabas encouraged him.
We can all think about those who encouraged us at an important moment in our lives. Encouragement goes a long, long way.