Then Barnabas took charge of him and brought him to the apostles.
By Fr. Steve Dos Santos, C.PP.S.
I was born and raised in St. Barnabas Parish in Alameda, Calif. When I was a kid, it was always exciting when Barnabas’ name would begin to show up in the readings. It would draw me in a little bit more than usual. It was there that I learned that the name Barnabas means “son of encouragement.”
This week, I find myself wondering about those early days of the Church we read about in Acts. Why did Barnabas take Saul under his wing? Why did he trust him when no one else would? Did he know something the others didn’t? Was it just his nature? Some believe that they may have been students together under the Rabbi Gamaliel. Whatever the reason, Barnabas’ decision to trust Saul had a tremendous impact on the Church. What would have happened to Saul and to the Church, had Barnabas not taken this risk? This one little act of support and encouragement made a tremendous difference.
Google defines encouragement as “to give support, confidence, or hope” to someone. Obviously we can encourage children in their sports or musical endeavors. We can encourage teens as they work hard in a variety of activities with their college applications in mind. We can encourage friends as they settle into new jobs or careers. But Barnabas’ example invites us to encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ as we strive to walk the way of holiness together.
Too often people believe that they have to get perfect on their own before they will be welcomed into the Church. None of us gets perfect on our own, we need Jesus and we need each other. We all need brothers and sisters with whom we can walk, companions who will encourage us along the way. We all need a Barnabas or two in our life.
Take a moment and think back on the people who have been your Barnabas and encouraged you in your walk. The ones who lifted your spirits and gave you hope when you felt that you had blown it with God. Thank God for them. Without them, who knows where you’d be today?
Now think about the people around you, and not just at Church. Who in your life needs encouragement in their walk with Jesus or to have a word of hope spoken into their lives? How can you be a Barnabas to them?
Could it be risky? Sure, maybe they will lash out at you. Or they might not be in a place to receive it yet. We have no control over their reaction. Saul could have been trying to infiltrate the community in order to arrest them, but Barnabas risked encouraging him, and helping him become a trusted member of the community. The rest, as they say, is history.
We all need to be encouraged as we grow in relationship with Jesus. Like Barnabas did for Saul, we are invited to encourage each other as we grow together in the faith. And that relationship does not end. Barnabas and Saul will become partners in ministry. They will spend a year together in Antioch preaching and teaching. Working together they help each other grow in relationship with the Lord, and helped to build the Church we have today.
Originally from Alameda, Calif., Fr. Steve Dos Santos, C.PP.S., served for a number of years at St. Agnes Parish in Los Angeles. He is now the vocation director of the Missionaries of the Precious Blood.