Saturday, June 12, 2010

Fr. Wells' bulletin inserts


When one of our Saint's Days rolls around, it is delightful to have some biographical knowledge of the particular saint. While the vast majority of God's holy ones are known only to Him (even by name), we rejoice in a special way when God has shared a bit of information with us. Such is the case with Barnabas whom we celebrate today. His name, as Luke tells us at Acts 4:36, means "son of encouragement." His name was a prophecy of the role he fulfilled in the Apostolic Church.

While Barnabas remains one of the lesser known figures of the NT, he appeared at four critical intersections of the story. First, he was responsible for introducing the newly converted persecutor, Saul to the Jerusalem Church. Saul, well known to the Church as her ferocious enemy, was almost rejected and turned away. But Barnabas was willing to take a chance on him and persuaded the original twelve apostles to admit Paul to the Church.

Second, as we hear in the lesson read today from Acts 11, Barnabas was instrumental in holding together the Jewish Church of Jerusalem and the Gentile Church of Antioch. But for Barnabas, history might have seen the rise of two conflicting types of Christianity, divided along purely racial and cultural lines. God, in His mercy, did not allow that to happen.

Third, Barnabas along with Paul began the first systematic missionary campaign. To his own great credit, Barnabas allowed Paul to emerge as the leader. That was owing to his own gracious and generous nature. But the campaign began in the Island of Cyprus, where Barnabas owned property and doubtless had personal connections.

Fourth, we must thank Barnabas for his nephew, St Mark. As we surely remember, the young man Mark for some reason abandoned the second missionary campaign when he was travelling with his uncle Barnabas and Paul. Thereafter Paul considered him unreliable and would not include him in his next journey. But Barnabas, "son of encouragement" that he was, stood by his nephew. Mark went on to write down the memoirs of Peter in the little book we know as the second of the four Gospels. Again, Barnabas made a difference.

But he was not always a hero. For a while he waffled on the truly serious question of Jewish and Gentile questions having table fellowship. Paul wrote, "The rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with [Peter], so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy" (Gal. 2:13). But we are not saints because we are always right, but because Christ Himself has the last word. LKW

TRINITY II (Second Sunday after Trinity)

The Gospel for today is part of a chapter which deals largely with banquets, guests, and eating. The setting was an actual banquet at the home of a ruler of the Pharisees, at which Jesus was the guest of honor.

Jesus surprised the assembly by healing a man afflicted with dropsy. He went on to admonish the guests for pushing into places of honor. He then exhorted them, when giving a dinner, not to invite their relatives or rich neighbors, but “the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind.” God's grace, according to Jesus, is the pattern and model for all of life.

One of the other guests, possibly wishing to distract Jesus and change the subject, let fly with a lovely remark: “Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God.” A perfectly true saying, but Jesus would not allow this to remain an empty platitude. He responded by telling the parable which we read today.

Two things emerge from this parable: first, what life in the kingdom is like, and secondly, the stubbornness of the man who provided the banquet.

There was an evangelical preacher who popularized the phrase, “It's fun being saved.” Contrary to those who think of grace and salvation as a dull ethereal existence, our dear Lord commonly described life under God's reign in terms of a banquet. Who does not enjoy fine food and drink? Just as the fall of Adam and Eve, our first parents, took place through eating, so our restoration is also symbolized by eating as well. We cannot begin to list our Lord's references to eating. It is enough to mention our eucharistic eating of His flesh and blood as the ultimate example of the blessedness of eating bread in the kingdom of God. Our point here is that every delightful meal is a foretaste of heaven.

The banquet did not take place without surprising resistance from ungrateful guests. The reign of God does not come without resistance from obstinate sinners. Anyone other than God would have called off the affair. But the parable teaches us that the sovereign grace of our God cannot be frustrated by our resistance. Those who decline the offer are simply excluded and left to their own devices. The banquet goes on “and still there is room.”

God grant they we may find ourselves among “the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind,” ushered into the eternal presence of the persistent and tenacious God who sends out to the streets and lanes, the highways and hedges, to seek and save that which is lost. LKW

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