Monthly Archives: June 2015

A Man Who Gave Second Chances

barnabasOn June 11 the Church remembers two of the Holy Apostles. One is Bartholomew, and the other is Barnabas, companion of Saint Paul.
Barnabas was born in Cyprus into a Jewish family of the tribe of Levi. His birth name was Joseph. He was a friend and classmate of Saint Paul, then called Saul. They both studied under Gamaliel, the prominent rabbi and teacher of the Jewish Law. Joseph saw and heard Jesus Christ, and came to believe in Him as the Savior of the world. He would eventually be chosen as one of the original seventy apostles because of his great zeal for the Gospel.
We first read about Barnabas in Acts 4: 36. Those verses describe the sacrifice the early Christians made, selling their property and offering the proceeds to serve the needs of all. But only Joseph, “who was surnamed by the apostles Barnabas,” is specifically named, so he must have stood out. The name Barnabas means “son of encouragement” and it seems appropriate from the other things we know about him.
In Acts 9 we read about Saint Paul, now converted from a murderous enemy of the faith to a believer. He comes to Jerusalem, hoping to join the disciples. But “they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple.” Again, Barnabas is named specifically, and is apparently the only one willing to give Paul a second chance. He convinces the others by telling them that “at Damascus he (Paul) had preached boldly in the name of the Lord” (9: 27).
Barnabas went to Antioch to observe the preaching to non-Jews in the community there. He was glad to see the grace of God working, and urged the people to “remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose” (11: 23). Then he brought Paul from Tarsus to Antioch, where they taught a “large company” together for about a year. This is where we read that “in Antioch the disciples were for the first time called Christians.”

Kontakion – Tone 3

You became a true servant of the Lord and appeared as the first among the Seventy Apostles; together with Paul you set your preaching in a clear light revealing Christ as Savior to all; therefore with hymns we celebrate your godly memory, O Barnabas.

Paul and Barnabas continued their missionary work, accompanied by Barnabas’ relative John Mark. But when they got to Perga, John Mark left them to return to Jerusalem. Later, Paul suggested to Barnabas that they return to the cities where they had preached, to “see how they are” (15: 36). Barnabas, again giving someone a second chance, proposed that they take John Mark with them. But Paul refused because of the earlier desertion, and the two parted ways. They were later reconciled, and it seems likely that Barnabas’ kind nature was the key to healing the split.
On this same day we read Paul’s words in Romans 5: 10 about reconciliation: “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by His life.” Paul must have been glad to have a partner like Barnabas, who always urged him toward reconciliation and the peace it brings.

This and many other Christian Education resources are available at http://dce.oca.org

The Saint Peter and Paul Fast (Apostles Fast)

The Orthodox Church has four main fasting periods. They are: the Nativity Fast (Advent) before Christmas, Great Lent before Pascha, the Dormition (Falling Asleep) of the Mother of God fast before the feast of the Dormition on August 15th and the Apostle’s Fast from the Monday after All Saints Sunday (this year June 8th) until the feast of Ss. Peter and Paul on June 29th. This fast can be longer or shorter depending on when Pascha falls. Tradition tells us that the apostles undertook this fast in order to prepare themselves to go out and preach the Gospel after Christ’s Ascension into heaven and the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.
Some people criticize the Church’s fasts, saying they are ‘man-made’ rules but this is not the case. In the second chapter of Saint Mark’s Gospel, when the Pharisees criticize our Lord’s apostles for not fasting, Jesus says “…. “Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast.  The days will come, when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day.” (Mk 2:19-20)
In other words, fasting is not appropriate when Jesus is with his apostles, but that is when our Lord returns to Heaven his disciples (including all of us) will fast. But why does Jesus want us to fast? Because it gives us spiritual strength.
Once when the apostles asked our Lord why they had not been able to cast a demon out of a young boy and heal him, Jesus said: “… this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting” (Mt 17:21) So fasting is important and for all of us. But we must be very careful not to fast only from certain foods and think that we are virtuous because of this. Even if we fast strictly, if our hearts are filled with judgement, lack of forgiveness, self-righteousness, grudges, etc. then our fasts are not pleasing to God. So in whatever way we fast, let our fasting come out of love for God and neighbor.

True fasting is putting away evil deeds. Forgive your neighbor his offences, forgive him his debts. “Do not fast in judgments and fights.” You may not eat meat, but you devour your brother. You may not drink wine, but you do not refrain from offence. You may wait till evening to take food, but you spend the day in places of judgment.

St. Basil the Great

Fr. John