11 June, Saturday – On Working the Vineyard

11 June – Feast of St. Barnabas, apostle

St. Barnabas (martyred 61) founded the Church in Antioch. He was a Levite Jewish convert, coming to the faith soon after Pentecost. Barnabas is mentioned frequently in the Acts of the Apostles, and is included among the prophets and doctors at Antioch. Like Paul, Barnabas believed in the Church’s mission to Gentiles, and worked with him in Cyprus and Asia, but split with him over a non-theological matter. At the time of his death he was carrying a copy of the Gospel of Saint Matthew that he had copied by hand.

– Patron Saint Index

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Acts 11:21-26,13:1-3

A great number believed and were converted to the Lord.

The church in Jerusalem heard about this and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. There he could see for himself that God had given grace, and this pleased him, and he urged them all to remain faithful to the Lord with heartfelt devotion; for he was a good man, filled with the Holy Spirit and with faith. And a large number of people were won over to the Lord.

Barnabas then left for Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he found him he brought him to Antioch. As things turned out they were to live together in that church a whole year, instructing a large number of people. It was at Antioch that the disciples were first called ‘Christians.’

In the church at Antioch the following were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen, who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. One day while they were offering worship to the Lord and keeping a fast, the Holy Spirit said, ‘I want Barnabas and Saul set apart for the work to which I have called them.’ So it was that after fasting and prayer they laid their hands on them and sent them off.

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Matthew 5:33-37

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘You have learnt how it was said to our ancestors: You must not break your oath, but must fulfil your oaths to the Lord. But I say this to you: do not swear at all, either by heaven, since that is God’s throne; or by the earth, since that is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, since that is the city of the great king. Do not swear by your own head either, since you cannot turn a single hair white or black. All you need say is “Yes” if you mean yes, “No” if you mean no; anything more than this comes from the evil one.’

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When he arrived and saw the grace of God, he rejoiced and encouraged them all

It takes many hands to build a kingdom. And even with each person giving their best efforts, things won’t always go smoothly. You need unity, organized minds and humility to get the job done. You also need to be able to diffuse conflict. Very often, viewpoints clash and if not communicated and shared effectively, misunderstandings arise. I learned this for myself firsthand while helping to plan a church event recently, the first time I’ve ever gotten involved in something like that. It’s easy to be overwhelmed when we let our pride get in the way of God’s ministry. It struck me that it takes just as much character to be able to follow orders, as it does to give them. Everyone has an opinion. How do you shape these into a coherent path and process?

That was the dilemma the fledgling church in Antioch faced. Growth was inevitably followed by teething pains and conflict. Antioch was ground zero for the apostles’ mission to the Gentiles and they were struggling to keep up with the number of people turning to God, as well as how to organize them. How often have we heard people say about church events, “Wow, so many people are attending, how are we going to make this work’, followed by much head shaking, hand wringing and complaining. That’s what Barnabas could’ve done too – shake his head, wring his hands and complain. Instead, he rejoiced and gave thanks to God. Then he called for reinforcements – Paul!

When we become overwhelmed by God’s work, or we face opposition to our views on how ministry should be conducted, it’s tempting to give in to the impulse to complain, be despondent and give up. Reach out and seek help! Pray! Been let down by fellow parishioners who flake? God will send you new volunteers; new hands, eyes and feet to help you get the job done. Barnabas was the sort of individual that was the perfect foil for Paul. God made it possible for them to find each other. He can make it possible for you too! So don’t lose hope even when the stress, the internal politicking, the lobbying, the gossiping and the complaining become too much for you. Rejoice that you have been given the unique opportunity to help in His ministry, to help him work His vineyard. And then have faith that He will give you all that you need to do the job for Him.

(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for wisdom, patience and restraint when resolving conflicts with other Christians. We pray that our pride doesn’t blind us to the best path forward.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks to willing hands and feet, volunteers who are moved by God, who make all events possible.

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