23 April 2013. Tuesday of the 4th Week of Easter

Acts 11:19ff. Barnabas goes to Antioch and sees the grace of God at work.

John 10:22ff. Jesus shows himself as the Saviour in whom we must trust.

First Reading: Acts 11:19-26

Now those who were scattered becaus of the persecution that took place over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, and they spoke the word to no one except Jews. But among them were some men of Cyprus and Cyrene who, on coming to Antioch, spoke to the Hellenists also, proclaiming the Lord Jesus. The hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number became believers and turned to the Lord. News of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he came and saw the grace of God, he rejoiced, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast devotion; for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were brought to the Lord.

Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for an entire year they met with the church and taught a great many people, and it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called “Christians.”

Gospel: John 10:22-30

At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered, “I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me; but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.”

Working with the Good Shepherd

The initiative must come from God, Jesus says in John’s Gospel. From him we receive eternal life, and through him we are caught up into the Holy Trinity. United with Jesus, we are united with Father and Spirit; and as Jesus says: “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand.”

Jesus speaks these profound words about the mystery of our life and our eternal future in answer to a question put to him by the crowd in the Temple. They had demanded rather abruptly: “How long are you going to keep us in suspense? If you are really the Messiah, tell us so in plain words.” Sharp questions like these prevent him from drawing the people into the mystery of themselves as created and dreamed by God. People tend to reject mystery, demanding a plain answer, Yes or No! “Are you the Messiah? If so, then we can begin the revolt against Rome.”

God can speak a word to brighten the mystery of our lives only if we allow the space to be gentle and gracious, perceptive and contemplative. These qualities characterize the great apostle Barnabas, virtually canonized even in his lifetime as “a good man filled with the Holy Spirit and with faith.” Elsewhere his name is interpreted as “son of encouragement” (Acts 4:36). Originally named Joseph, he was called Barnabas because of his encouraging style of preaching the gospel.

This openness of Barnabas to God’s gifts led him to search for Paul and bring him to Antioch. If it had not been for Barnabas, Paul might have been lost in the silent sands of some contemplative desert! Taking a cue from today’s gospel, we reckon that through Barnabas Jesus called his sheep “Paul” by name and led him into a path that transformed the missionary enterprise and the very nature of the Church. We need to ask ourselves can we too be instrumental in helping others to perceive the wonder of themselves as called by God?

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