Acts 12:24-13:5a; Ps. 67; Jn. 12:44-50
In today’s account of the Acts of the Apostles, we are introduced to John Mark, who many scholars believe to be the author of the Gospel of Mark. It was during these early days of the Church’s mission to all the surrounding nations that many great and influential people were entering into the Church. They were no doubt drawn by the enthusiasm of the many prophets and teachers who were named for us today, including Barnabas. Barnabas was not only Saul’s companion, he was John Mark’s cousin. Later in the story, we read that John Mark took a leave of absence after their mission to Cyprus. It was a difficult mission resulting in only a single conversion. When it came time for Saul and Barnabas to go on mission again, the two were torn over whether or not to bring John Mark. Perhaps Saul concluded that John Mark was not cut out for missionary work; perhaps Saul was trying to protect Mark. In any event, Barnabas sided with his cousin, and Paul and Barnabas went about their separate ways. What might we learn from this situation in the early Church?
First, we learn that disagreement within the Church is nothing new. And even though Saul and Barnabas go separate ways, it bears mentioning that they remained firmly grounded in their faith and the mission. In other words, they stayed focused on the light of Christ. Second, we might learn something from the name Barnabas, which means “Father of Encouragement.” Perhaps Barnabas was looking after his cousin. If Mark was truly defeated after their mission to Cyprus, perhaps Barnabas was attempting to lift him up, dust him off, and put him back on the way. Family ties are important, and we never give up on one another. We read in some of Paul’s other letters that he and Mark eventually reconciled, especially in Second Timothy, where Paul writes: “Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is helpful to me in the ministry” (2 Tim 4:11). It would seem, Barnabas, the Father of Encouragement, stepped in at just the right moment so that his cousin Mark would go on to not only serve Paul, but ultimately to write the first Gospel bearing his name.
Given Mark’s own experience of rejection, he would have come to understand the principalities and powers fighting against the Christian way of life. Jesus came to give us the words of the Father–words of encouragement, words of commandment–so that all who believe in him will have eternal life. This life comes to us through the truth that Jesus speaks. The world is full of lies and half-truths, wickedness and deceit, darkness and sin. But, Jesus is the light of the world shining within the darkness. This light, like the flame of the Paschal Candle in a dark church, brings light to all who see it. In fact, when in darkness, the light becomes the only object of our vision. And when we have this light, it comes to dwell within we who share the same vision, so that like Paul, Barnabas, Mark, and all the rest, we too, may go out into the world and share the light of the Good News. May this light continue to burn bright within each of us, so that everyone we encounter will see the light of Christ in our words and actions–in everything we do.
Given during the COVID-19 pandemic.