Wednesday June 11, 2003 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 about Barnabas, whose feast we celebrate today, and the extraordinary nature of this man. As we know, his name means “the son of encouragement”. So, of course, the Acts of the Apostles tells us that he encouraged the people to remain faithful because he himself was filled with the Holy Spirit and with faith. But beyond that, it tells us that he went down to Tarsus to look for Saul. Here we have one of the apostles who was willing to reach out to Saint Paul, to seek him out for the work to which God had called him. And when, after fasting and praying, the Holy Spirit made it clear to the people in Antioch, after they had been there for a year, Saul and Barnabas were willing to go wherever it was that the Lord wanted them to go on this missionary journey, which is really the first major missionary journey that we hear about in the New Testament.
When we see the faithfulness of this man, this is something that can give all of us courage and encouragement when we think about what he did. We see the charity that he practiced in going to people who were not his own, if you will. They were not his own family; they were not anybody that he knew. He went from Jerusalem up to Antioch to be able to be with these people and to teach them and preach to them. We see him reaching out to Saul and bringing him into the fold and making him a teacher along with himself. And so he practiced that kind of charity to be able to reach out and bring people to the Lord.
Then in the Gospel reading, we hear Our Lord telling us that if we go into someone’s house, we are to wish it peace. Just think, if we were to do what Our Lord said – as we go along we are to say, “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand” – well, people would think we need a psychiatrist, first of all. But even if we do not want to do it that way, we can at least do what the Lord said, that is, when we go to somebody’s house, to wish them peace, to pray that the peace of Christ will come upon the house. He said, “If they are worthy, your peace will remain there; and if they are not, it will come back to you.” It is a win-win situation anyway (which would be the wrong reason to do it) but it is to do it out of charity, to desire for the people whom we encounter that they would have the peace of Christ, to be able in this kind of way to encourage the people to what is right, to be a good example to others, and for our own selves to be able to grow in charity, to look beyond the self to the good of others. That is what Barnabas was all about. That is the example that Saint Luke shows of him in the Acts of the Apostles, and it precisely what Our Lord tells us we are supposed to do.
So if we stop to think for ourselves, even if we do not go out and proclaim (by word, anyway) that the kingdom of God is at hand, then we need to ask ourselves, “If I believe that then how do I need to change? What should I be doing toward others? Should I have a lackadaisical attitude? Should I be selfish? Should I just be pulled in and focused on me? What is it that the Lord would want?” You see, this point of who we are as Christian people and what lies at the foundation of this – the kingdom of God being present within and moving forward to that perfect union with Jesus Christ – it is that which must shape our entire lives.
We too, then, can be filled with faith and the Holy Spirit. And because of that, we too will be able to encourage others, to lift them up, and to bring them to Christ. Not so much because we went out and stood on a soapbox and told them to repent because the kingdom of God is at hand, but rather because they saw the work of the Holy Spirit within us. They can see that the way we are living is not for this world but for the next, and that what we are seeking is the peace of Christ for ourselves and for them. When they see that we are filled with charity, that we are not in it for ourselves, that we are not being selfish, but rather that we are seeking the good of others, and that we desire only what is the best for them, it is then that they will be able to look a little deeper, to look beyond themselves, to repent and to find the peace of Christ within themselves.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.