Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Barnabas: The Patron Saint of Sidekicks

So the Year of Saint Paul has dawned upon us! Pope Benedict XVI has announced that from this month of June until June 2009 (when summer rears it's perspiring head again) the Church will be focusing on this Dynamic Disciple, this Super Apostle, this Tower of Power who was beaten, stoned, ridiculed and practically barbecued (wait, that was St. Lawrence) all for the love of Jesus and the blossoming New Way known to us now as Christianity!

But what's a Super Apostle without a Sidekick? What's Batman without Robin, Woody without Buzz Lightyear, Captain America without Bucky? (I don't know who this is either but it was on Wikipedia).

Well.... not a heck of a lot friends!

Because, truth is, behind every Super Apostle there lies a “son of encouragement.” And that's our man Barnabas, who's feast we celebrate today! He introduced Paul to Peter and the Apostles. He was present at the miracle in Lystra that led some of the people to claim he and Paul as gods - Barnabas being Zeus, and Paul, Hermes (how cool that Barnabas gets called Zeus, King of the gods, and Paul gets his son Hermes who was just a herald! I can just picture them years later, sipping goat's milk, telling stories... "They thought you were Zeus! Bah hah!" Goat's milk sprays all over.)

Barnabas was the great Encourager, the Right Hand Man, the Patron Saint of Sidekicks, and yet so much more! When doubt surfaced, he floated his faith. When tension knotted the air between Gentiles and Jews, he unraveled it with peace. When Paul went out on a mission, Barnabas made the sandwiches... and he did his own fair share of preaching to boot. Good 'ole "Behind the Scenes" Barnabas... He was a man of humility, filled with the Spirit.


With the exception of St. Paul and certain of the Twelve, Barnabas appears to have been the most esteemed man of the first Christian generation. St. Luke, breaking his habit of reserve, speaks of him with affection, "for he was a good man, full of the Holy Ghost and of Faith". His title to glory comes not only from his kindliness of heart, his personal sanctity, and his missionary labours, but also from his readiness to lay aside his Jewish prejudices, in this anticipating certain of the Twelve; from his large-hearted welcome of the Gentiles, and from his early perception of Paul's worth, to which the Christian Church is indebted, in large part at least, for its great Apostle.

So you see, you don't have to be a superstar, or a Super Apostle, to be a saint. You just have to love, tremendously, and do the task at hand. Different gifts, the same Spirit.

There are countless Barnabasessess in our Church's history. Find St. Francis and there was Brother Leo in his shadow, St. Dominic and there were two nephews of his who were pretty dang saintly themselves. Mother Teresa was surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses who still touch countless lives today all over the world. Behind the scenes of every parish, there are the sidekicks: kneeling in pews after daily Mass, praying countless rosaries, clutching rubber-banded novena booklets chock full of yellowed holy cards, passing baskets around the church at collection time, running the Bingo, baking casseroles, stuffing envelopes... there are thousands of "encouragers"... doing little things with much love; and these are the makings of Great Big Saints.

Today, our smallest word of encouragement is exponentially greater because of the benevolent benediction of St. Barnabas. So power to the Sidekicks, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.
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