Elijah said to Ahab, "Go up, eat and drink; for there is a sound of rushing rain." So Ahab went up to eat and to drink. Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; there he bowed himself down upon the earth and put his face between his knees. He said to his servant, "Go up now, look toward the sea." He went up and looked, and said, "There is nothing." Then he said, "Go again seven times." At the seventh time he said, "Look, a little cloud no bigger than a person's hand is rising out of the sea." Then he said, "Go say to Ahab, 'Harness your chariot and go down before the rain stops you.'" In a little while the heavens grew black with clouds and wind; there was a heavy rain. Ahab rode off and went to Jezreel. But the hand of the Lord was on Elijah; he girded up his loins and ran in front of Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel.
You have visited the land and watered it;
greatly have you enriched it.
God's watercourses are filled;
you have prepared the grain. (R./)
Thus have you prepared the land:
drenching its furrows, breaking up its clods,
Softening it with showers,
blessing its yield. (R./)
You have crowned the year with your bounty,
and your paths overflow with a rich harvest;
The untilled meadows overflow with it,
and rejoicing clothes the hills. (R./)
Jesus said to them,
"I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
"You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, 'You shall not murder'; and 'whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.' But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, 'You fool,' you will be liable to the hell of fire. So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny."
The language Jesus uses has a sharp edge to it and is strange to our ears, 'If your right eye should cause you to sin, tear it out and throw it away�' He is speaking inhyperbole to get our attention; clearly not to be taken literally. He goes deeper than what the Ten Commandments prohibit to the roots of those actions in the human heart. This is the deeper virtue proposed a few verses earlier. He calls for not just a change of behaviour but a change of heart, a purifying of desire and intention.
This transformation is understood elsewhere in the Scriptures to be the work of the Spirit. It is the Spirit who renews the human heart. We try to open ourselves to the Spirit of God in prayer. As Elijah went the mountain of God, and there experienced the presence of the Lord in 'the sound of a gentle breeze', we need to sometimes seek God in silence. It is there that we open ourselves to the Lord's Spirit, working within us to recreate our heart
The hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number became believers and turned to the Lord. News of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he came and saw the grace of God, he rejoiced, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast devotion; for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were brought to the Lord.
Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for an entire year they met with the church and taught a great many people, and it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called "Christians."
Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a member of the court of Herod the ruler, and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.
Sing to the Lord a new song,
for he has done marvellous deeds;
His right hand has won victory for him,
his holy arm. (R./)
The Lord has made his salvation known:
in the sight of the nations he has revealed his justice.
He has remembered his kindness and his faithfulness
toward the house of Israel. (R./)
All the ends of the earth have seen
the salvation by our God.
Sing joyfully to the Lord, all you lands;
break into song; sing praise. (R./)
Sing praise to the Lord with the harp,
with the harp and melodious song.
With trumpets and the sound of the horn
sing joyfully before the King, the Lord. (R./)
Jesus said to his apostles: "As you go, proclaim the good news, "The kingdom of heaven has come near." Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment.
Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for labourers deserve their food. Whatever town or village you enter, find out who in it is worthy, and stay there until you leave. As you enter the house, greet it. If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you."
Barnabas was one of the most amiable and life-promoting of the early Christians. Luke calls him "a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith." A trusted confidant of many, he shared much of his property with the poor, and it was he who helped the former persecutor, Saul/Paul, to gain entry to the Christian community in Jerusalem. As portrayed in Acts, Barnabas had the sort of unselfish, encouraging personality that made him a great ambassador for the Gospel. He was the perfect delegate to be sent by the apostles to support the growing church in Antioch.
Saul (later called Paul) had been too blunt in his way of presenting Christianity in the synagogues to which he once had belonged. For the sake of peace, the apostles sent him back to his native Tarsus, into virtual exile, to cool his heels until he learned to temper his speech to the volatile circumstances in Jerusalem. Fortunately, however, Barnabas did not want Paul’s great gifts to be wasted, knowing how precious they would be to the Christians in Antioch . So, as Luke relates with relish, he brought Saul to Antioch where, between them, they instructed many in the faith, integrating Jewish and Gentile converts into what the first truly "catholic" church. It was from this dynamic community that Barnabas and Paul went out on the first foreign mission, to Barnabas’ home island of Cyprus, and then further afield up into Asia Minor. The Church later incorporated elements of their ordaining ceremony. The two missionaries were sent out BOTH by the Holy Spirit’s impulse AND by prayer, with the laying on of hands.
Our Gospel for his feast reports Jesus’ guidance to his twelve apostles, with the urgency and goodwill that their mission required. They were to be zealous with the message and in the ministry of healing, and practice a sober, purposeful lifestyle, unconcerned for the trappings of wealth and status. How well Barnabas, and later Paul, measured up to those missionary requirements is well illustrated in their story as told by Luke, and then by Paul in his letters. Today’s feast can serve to recall all of us to those qualities in Barnabas which gave such a boost to the growth of the Church in his time. With pastors like him, our Church could have a great revival.
The kindly Cypriot, Barnabas, was admired for his gift of animating others. His given name was Josef, but Barnabas was added as a nickname which means "son of encouragement." We see him engaged in that ministry in today’s text from the Acts. Something powerful and new was stirring within the Christian community in Antioch. In that city the gospel had for the first time been preached to pagans as well as Jews and therefore a new kind of church was emerging there, a group that included members of Jewish and non-Jewish background.
When Barnabas was sent to Antioch by the apostles to assess what was happening there, he immediately recognized it as the work of the Lord and sided with this new development. He turned out to be absolutely right; it was indeed the work of the Lord. God is always at work in new and creative ways among us and it is a great gift to be able to recognize divine inspiration wherever it is to be found, and to celebrate and encourage its effects. Barnabas had this gift of noticing where the Lord was a work because, as the narrator says, he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith (Acts 11:24). We need to be open to the Spirit, in order to recognize the work of the Spirit. As Saint Paul says in one of his letters, spiritual things are discerned spiritually (1 Cor 2:14).