May 14, 2019
There were two important tasks for the Apostles in the early Church. The first was to build faith communities as they travelled from one city to another. We hear of some of those places in the Acts in this Sunday’s readings: Pisidia, Pamphylia, Pergia, Attalia and Antioch. The second was to offer encouragement and hope to these communities amidst the struggle of persecution. Paul and Barnabas were key figures in the building up of these communities and the encouragement and support they offered. Paul was a tireless writer and visitor of these communities and Barnabas’ name means “son of encouragement.” Since these faith communities were under great persecution, the need for support, love and prayer were essential elements that helped sustain them and kept their focus on why they gathered: to give praise to Jesus Christ and follow in his footsteps. After all, it was Jesus’ giving up of his life on the cross because of his love for his people that paved the way for them to model that toward each other. This is the model that we continue to follow as a Church in the 21st century. The Church today experiences its own unique challenges; the clergy scandals; diminishing numbers of those attending church; lack of vocations to religious life and priesthood; attacks on family life and on the sanctity of all human life. These challenges can discourage us. Like Paul and Barnabas, who encouraged communities where love, support and prayer were rooted, we are called to form communities where these values are lived out and can be beacons of hope for our Church and world.