These reflections are a result of more than 40 years of ministry as a Roman Catholic priest. Most of these years I spent in the Diocese of Charlotte which covers Western North Carolina. Now I am retired, and live in Medellín, Colombia where I continue to serve as a priest in the Archdiocese of Medellín.
At Lystra there was a crippled man, lame from birth, who had never walked. He listened to Paul speaking, who looked intently at him, saw that he had the faith to be healed, and called out in a loud voice, “Stand up straight on your feet.” He jumped up and began to walk about. When the crowds saw what Paul had done, they cried out in Lycaonian, “The gods have come down to us in human form.” They called Barnabas “Zeus” and Paul “Hermes,” because he was the chief speaker. (Acts 14:8-12)
Poor Paul and Barnabas . . . folks wanted to offer sacrifice to them. But the apostles prevented them:
“We proclaim to you good news that you should turn to the living God, who made heaven and earth and sea and all that is in them.” (Acts 14: 15)
As the Psalmist says:
Not to us, O Lord, but to your name give the glory. (Psalm 115)
You are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may announce the praises” of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. (1 Pt 2:9)
A people . . . chosen . . . royal . . . holy . . . special. You know that’s the lesson our mothers taught us and Scripture confirms it. There’s no one quite like Mom.
Philip said to Jesus, “Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” (Jn 14:8-9)
The Father and I are one . . . as Saint Paul would say:
God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself. (2 Cor 5:19)
This passage has been interesting in the art of the church.
Thomas said to him, “Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” (Jn 14:5-6)
The very first name for the Jesus Movement was The Way (Acts 9:2). That eventually changed when the term Christians was applied to the members. But The Way still has a ring to it, and it reminds us that we are on a journey with Christ, that we are called to follow Jesus, who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.
R. For ever I will sing the goodness of the Lord. The favors of the LORD I will sing forever; through all generations my mouth shall proclaim your faithfulness. R. For ever I will sing the goodness of the Lord. (Psalm 89)
Music transforms our lives. The church has always used music. As the Letter to the Ephesians encourages:
Address one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and playing to the Lord in your hearts. (Eph 5:19)
And as Saint Augustine said long ago: “The one who sings, prays twice!” May there always be a song in our hearts!
While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then, completing their fasting and prayer, they laid hands on them and sent them off. (Acts 13:2-3)
Prayer and the Laying On of Hands have been essential elements of the Rite of Ordination from the earliest days of the church. Today I remember my own ordination to the priesthood on May 6, 1978, forty-two years ago today. I have always been grateful to Bishop Michael Begley who ordained me and sent me to serve God’s people.
Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he had found him he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the Church and taught a large number of people, and it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called Christians. (Acts 11:25-26)
How important is Barnabas in the story of the church. He reached out to Saul who had persecuted the church but had since had his conversion. When the others wouldn’t have anything to do with Saul . . . Barnabas reaches and invites him into the work. And Saul becomes Paul. I always liked the Cotton Patch Gospels which was an attempt to translate the New Testament into Southern idiom using Southern place names. I’ll never forget this particular passage:
And it was here in Mobile that the disciples were first labeled "Christians.
And, of course, Mobile is my hometown!