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The Gift of Faith

First Reading: Acts 11:21B-26; 13:1-3

In those days a great number who believed turned to the Lord.
The news about them reached the ears of the Church in Jerusalem,
and they sent Barnabas to go to Antioch.
When he arrived and saw the grace of God,
he rejoiced and encouraged them all
to remain faithful to the Lord in firmness of heart,
for he was a good man, filled with the Holy Spirit and faith.
And a large number of people was added to the Lord.
Then he 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.

Now there were in the Church at Antioch prophets and teachers:
Barnabas, Symeon who was called Niger,
Lucius of Cyrene,
Manaen who was a close friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.
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.

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 98:1, 2-3AB, 3CD-4, 5-6

R. (see 2b) The Lord has revealed to the nations his saving power.
Sing to the LORD a new song,
for he has done wondrous deeds;
His right hand has won victory for him,
his holy arm.
R. The Lord has revealed to the nations his saving power.
The LORD has made his salvation known:
in the sight of the nations he has revealed his justice.
He has remembered his kindness and his faithfulness
toward the house of Israel.
R. The Lord has revealed to the nations his saving power.
All the ends of the earth have seen
the salvation by our God.
Sing joyfully to the LORD, all you lands;
break into song; sing praise.
R. The Lord has revealed to the nations his saving power.
Sing praise to the LORD with the harp,
with the harp and melodious song.
With trumpets and the sound of the horn
sing joyfully before the King, the LORD.
R. The Lord has revealed to the nations his saving power.

Gospel: Matthew 5:33-37

Jesus said to his disciples:
“You have heard that it was said to your ancestors,
Do not take a false oath,
but make good to the Lord all that you vow.
But I say to you, do not swear at all;
not by heaven, for it is God’s throne;
nor by the earth, for it is his footstool;
nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King.
Do not swear by your head,
for you cannot make a single hair white or black.
Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’
Anything more is from the Evil One.”

NAB

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Today is the Feast of Saint Barnabas the Apostle, and while he was not one of the twelve, he is remembered as an Apostle. We don’t hear of him in Scripture at all until Acts 4, when he sells his land and gives his money to the Apostles. He had lived his life as a faithful Levite, and he heard the Good News around Pentecost and joined the Church. When we hear of him again in Acts 9, he is already hard at work for the Church and sent to fetch Saul (Saint Paul)  to bring him to the Apostles.

In the passage from Acts today, we hear more about the kind of person Saint Barnabas was:

When he arrived and saw the grace of God,
he rejoiced and encouraged them all
to remain faithful to the Lord in firmness of heart,
for he was a good man, filled with the Holy Spirit and faith.

Saint Barnabas had been given the theological virtue of faith; a theological virtue is one directed towards God, but also given to us by God. He used this gift of faith to aid and inspire the early Church. He was passionate in his evangelizing and his passion was contagious. Let’s take a closer look at how Saint Luke, the author of Acts, described him and how we can also be inspired by his faith:

He “saw the grace of God.” His faith allowed him to see where God moved.

He “rejoiced” when he saw this grace. How often do we truly rejoice when we see God’s grace?

He “encouraged them all to remain faithful.” Is it easy for you to encourage others to remain faithful? How can you lift people up? Are you easily discouraged? Who among your fellow Christians helps you to be encouraged in your faith?

He had a “firmness of heart.” When I think of a firmness of heart, I think of a tree standing unwavering against a storm. The wind beats and blows and whips the tree around, but the tree stands firm. When we have faith, we are like that tree.

And Barnabas was “good man, filled with the Holy Spirit and faith.” He had sought to live a life of virtue, but it really was the Holy Spirit who helped him live this way. His faith was a gift, as it is in us all. It is only with the aid of the Holy Spirit that we can live lives of faith.

Let us thank the Lord for the gift of faith which builds us up as a community, for those who inspire you to deeper faith through their own gift of faith, and for the gift of faith He has given you in your own life. Let us pray for more faith today. Saint Barnabas, pray for us!

photo credit

Susanna Spencer once studied theology and philosophy, but now happily cares for her three adorable little girls, baby boy, and her dear husband in Saint Paul. She loves beautiful liturgies, cooking delicious meals, baking amazing sweets, reading good books, raising her children, casually following baseball, and talking to her philosopher husband. You can find out more about her here.

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