Tuesday June 11, 2002 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Tenth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Acts 11:21b-26; 13:1-3) Gospel (St. Matthew 10:7-13)
In the first reading today from the Acts of the Apostles, we hear that Barnabas, who is a good man filled with the Holy Spirit, was sent down to Antioch to preach to the people. In Antioch, he encouraged them and great numbers were added. Now if we listen, then, to what Our Lord tells us in the Gospel, He says that as they go they are to make the proclamation that the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Then they are to cure the sick and heal the lepers and cast out demons and all the things that the Lord required of them. But the first point was that they were to preach that the kingdom of heaven was at hand. Then the Lord also told us at the end of the Gospel reading that we are to wish peace to whatever house we enter. If the people there are worthy, the peace will settle upon them; and if they are not, the peace will come back to us.
We have to assume that these are the sorts of things that Saint Barnabas was doing. As he went along, he was encouraging the people; not only encouraging them on a natural level, but encouraging them most importantly on a spiritual level so that in this way he was building up their faith. He was bringing that peace to them, but he was helping them to look to Christ. He was pointing out to them that the kingdom of heaven was at hand. In that way, what it did was to take the people from their natural selves and make them look beyond themselves - make them look at the Lord. It is that more than anything which is going to encourage people. If we are caught up in ourselves, we are going to despair; but if we are caught up in the Lord, we are going to have hope. The kind of encouragement we all really need is that hope which comes from Jesus Christ.
What we all need to learn, then, is the same exact lesson: how to be filled with the Holy Spirit, how to be that good person that the Lord is calling us to be so that we can be the one who will bring that Good News to the people, that we will be the ones who will help people to look beyond themselves and look to Christ, that we will be the ones who will point out to people that the kingdom of heaven is at hand, that we will bring to them the peace of the Lord. If they are worthy, the peace will remain with them. That is what the Lord is asking each one of us to do and to be.
The difficulty for us is that most of us, even though we believe in the Lord, do not really like to bring Him out into the public. We do not like to bring Him out into the world because if we do we are going to be rejected and we are going to be ridiculed. So we keep our faith to ourselves. But that is not what the Lord wants. The Lord wants many to be added. If Barnabas would have kept his faith to himself, firstly, he would not have gone to Antioch, secondly, large numbers of people would not have been added, and thirdly, Saint Paul would never have done what he did because it was Barnabas who went to Tarsus to find him and bring him back so that he would be able to work with the people at Antioch. Otherwise, because of his past, most of the Christians just left him alone, but Barnabas was willing to reach out to him. And so, it is that kind of encouragement the Lord is looking for in each one of us.
But before we can give that kind of encouragement we have to have that faith and the Holy Spirit, which filled Barnabas. We need to pray for that. And we need to make sure that within ourselves we are looking to that kingdom of heaven, that we are looking beyond ourselves, and that our focus is on the Lord. When it is, then it is not going to be a problem for us to bring Christ to others because He is going to be the primary focus of our lives. If Christ is just a part of our lives rather than the focus of our lives then we are not going to bring Him to others unless it is convenient for us. If they bring it up we will talk about it, but otherwise we do not want to do that because the Lord really is not the top priority in our lives, He is not the central aspect of our lives around which everything else revolves. Therefore, we remain quiet and withdrawn.
That is not the example we see in these saints. We see that the Lord sets them apart and has them reach out to others. We can be guaranteed that He is asking the exact same thing of us. Maybe not to go out on missionary journeys and preach the Gospel to pagan peoples, but at least to bring the Gospel to the people around us, to reach out to them, whether it is in our homes, our workplaces, or our neighborhoods. Wherever we happen to congregate with people, we are to reach out to them; we are to help them to look beyond themselves, beyond the worldly problems around them, and to look to Christ, to encourage them in their faith, to be filled with the Holy Spirit, and to proclaim to them that the Kingdom of God is at hand.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.