Acts 11:21b-26;13:1-3; Psalm 98:1-3ab, 3dc-6; Mt 5:1-12
Because of Saint Barnabas and all the other Apostles, all the ends of the earth have come to see the salvation by our God, the Lord Jesus Christ. We who live at the ends of the earth, we who have never been to the Holy Land, we who were not with those on the Mount of the Beatitudes, we have come to rejoice and be glad in Our Savior. Saint Barnabas rejoiced in the great numbers who believed. The Lord Jesus was glad to give the crowds a reason to rejoice even when persecuted. We, too, are here on the mount of the liturgy to catch a glimpse of the glory of the cross, which is ours.
For a whole year Saint Paul and Saint Barnabas taught in the church at Antioch. They taught a large number of disciples how to live and move and have their being in the Lord Jesus Christ! These early believers became so completely identified with Christ that they were called “little Christs” or “Christians.” This vibrant community was so filled with faith and the Holy Spirit that they were opened to the missionary call. They were so available to the will of God that they could hear the Spirit summon and send Saint Barnabas and Saint Paul to go forth from them, to leave the beloved community, to face the dangers of hostile strangers. During the liturgy and while they were fasting the Holy Spirit directed the Church at Antioch to “set apart” Barnabas and Saul for the work of evangelization. To be set apart is to be consecrated, to be blessed by God and prayed over by the community of believers. These Christians laid hands on Barnabas and Saul and sent them off to spread the good news as the Spirit led them. All through the history of the church, the formation of intimate and healthy communities results in the sending of certain blessed and chosen ones to announce the good news of salvation to the ends of the earth.
The Lord Jesus is the first missionary. Jesus, our Lord and God, comes forth from the eternal Trinity to share the intimate life of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, with all who hunger and thirst for holiness. The Lord God made Adam and Eve to share his own divine life forever. They rejected his command. They choose their own will over his. The Lord God pursued the rebellious children of Adam and Eve. He made covenants again and again with his People Israel. They rejected his command. They choose their own will over his. Still the Lord pursued his rebellious nation. They were chosen among all the nations to be the salt of the earth and light of the world. Israel was to be a Holy People who would reveal the Father’s own holiness to the nations. But what if Israel no longer salts history to bring out the divine flavor? What if the light of God’s glory upon the faces of his people no longer brightens the darkness of every time and place? At the time of Elijah the nation and its king had very little taste for the things of God and very little burning desire to seek his countenance. Even when we lost his favor and did not trust in his kindness, the LORD does not deny his own identity. Still He comes; He comes to save us. He comes as a wandering preacher with his disciples to provide everyone with the salt needed to bring out the true flavor of the divine presence in our world, even in our suffering. He comes a powerless teacher with his disciples to provide everyone with the light needed to make them the light of the world. Indeed, our failure and rebellion does not diminish the desire or power of Our Heavenly Father to save us from a dull and tasteless life full of vanity and falsehood. In this Eucharist we are fed and strengthened to follow the only Lord of Heaven and earth.