Tuesday Reflection from Sr. Rosemary Finnegan, O.P.
Readings from: https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/042622.cfm

Since February, we have seen one man, to the surprise of many, rise in astonishing leadership in his country.  I’m speaking of course of Volodymyr Zelensky.  One of the things we have seen him do over and over again, in the midst of great trials, tribulations and tragedies, is motivate, inspire, and in particular, encourage the people of Ukraine.

In our first reading, we heard about another leader who encouraged the early church followers during their very difficult times.  Only 15 years after Jesus’ resurrection, the followers began to experience severe persecutions.  Some of the apostles were martyred and Peter was imprisoned.  They were blessed to have someone in their midst who encouraged them, motivated and inspired them.  That person was Joseph, but the apostles renamed him ‘Barnabas’, meaning ‘son of encouragement’.  They obviously recognized and credited him with witnessing this great quality of encouragement.

Barnabas was born in Cyprus into a Jewish family living outside of Palestine, but he also spoke Greek. He may have been in the company of disciples who travelled with Jesus. If he did not know Jesus before the crucifixion, Barnabas heard the apostles' preaching very soon after Pentecost.

Barnabas believed in the power of the gospel message to change people's hearts. He was the one who persuaded the apostles and the church in Jerusalem that Paul had been converted, and was now a follower and not a  persecutor.

Barnabas was sent by the apostles to go to the church at Antioch.  He chose Paul to go with him. Barnabas encouraged others to understand that the mission of the church was universal.  As a result, he and Paul decided to preach the gospel for the first time to Gentiles, rather than only to Jews. This decision to also preach to the Gentiles was a turning point in the life of the church. With Barnabas’ encouragement, then, two major things happened:  Paul was accepted as a disciple and the Gentiles became followers.  The rest is history!

Encouragement is a gift, and can be a turning point in people’s lives, especially people who are struggling with illness, life changes, family issues, etc.  The right word, or kind deed, at the right time can be life changing.  Thessalonians 5:11 says:  "Therefore encourage one another and build each other up.” In the name of the risen Lord, who do we know whom we can we encourage today?