Today’s First Reading: Acts 12:24-13-5 – 4th WEEK OF EASTER: Wednesday, 15 May 2019
In the first half of the Acts of the Apostles, Paul’s name rarely appears far from that of his good friend Barnabas. In fact, the churches both in Jerusalem and Antioch recognized these men’s great gifts and strong friendship, and sent them on sensitive missions together.
Though Paul has become celebrated as the special “Apostle to the Gentiles”, Barnabas was completely united with him in this vision of a worldwide Church. To a certain degree, Paul owed a lot to Barnabas since it was this silent apostle who sought him out, smoothed the way for his acceptance in Jerusalem, and took him to Antioch to join him in helping lead the church there (Acts 11:21-26).
Such a close friendship sounds very exciting and uplifting, but it had its own share of strain and tension. For instance, after their first missionary journey together, Barnabas and Paul had a violent quarrel over whether Barnabas’ relative John Mark should join them on another journey. The disagreement was so strong that they separated from each other and went their own ways (Acts 15:36-41).
Both men continued to be giants of the early Church, and both are still honored as great saints. But we must wonder what even greater deeds were left undone because of this split? And what ripple effects did their example of disharmony send out among the Christian community they had led? It is painful to realize that serious division disturbed the action of the Holy Spirit from the very earliest days of the Church.
All of us can tell our own stories of the great harm caused by quarrels and divisions within our families, parishes, workplaces, and neighborhoods. We have all seen plans frustrated, resources squandered, goodwill and a united spirit sacrificed because of pride, hurt feelings, or stubborn insistence on our own way. Let’s take today’s reading as a call to be peacemakers, working and praying to heal the divisions that frustrate the powerful designs of the Holy Spirit.
Jakarta, 15 May 2019
A Christian Pilgrim