Lectio Divina: Saint Barnabas, Apostle Mt 10: 7-13
1) Opening prayer
Lord our God,
prompted by the Holy Spirit,
the church of Antioch sent Paul and Barnabas
on their missionary mission among pagans.
Let your Church everywhere send
good, zealous men and women as missionaries.
Fill them with the Holy Spirit and with faith,
that they may touch the hearts of people
and win them as disciples and friends
of Jesus Christ our Lord.
2) Gospel Reading - Matthew 10:7-13
Jesus said to his Apostles: “As you go, make this proclamation: 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand.' Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, drive out demons. Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give. Do not take gold or silver or copper for your belts; no sack for the journey, or a second tunic, or sandals, or walking stick. The laborer deserves his keep. Whatever town or village you enter, look for a worthy person in it, and stay there until you leave. As you enter a house, wish it peace. If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; if not, let your peace return to you."
• Today is the feast of Saint Barnabas. The Gospel speaks about the teachings of Jesus to the disciples on how to announce the Good News of the Kingdom to “the lost sheep of Israel” (Mt 10:6). They have to a) cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, drive out devils (v. 8); b) announce what they have received gratuitously (v. 8); c) provide themselves with no gold or silver, no sandals, or staff, no sack, or a second tunic (v. 9), d) seek a house where they can be received until the end of the mission (v. 11); e) be bearers of peace (v. 13).
• At the time of Jesus there were various movements which, like Him, were seeking a new way of living and of living together with others. For example, John the Baptist, the Pharisees, the Essenes and others. Many of them formed communities of disciples (Jn 1:35; Lk 11:1; Acts 19:3) and had their missionaries (Mt 23:15). But there was a great difference! The Pharisees, for example, when they went on mission, provided for their needs. They thought that they could not trust the food that people would offer them because it was not always “ritually pure.” Because of this they always carried a sack and money so as to be able to take care of what they would eat. In this way, the observance of the law of purity, instead of helping to overcome divisions, weakened the living of community values even more. The proposal of Jesus is different. His method was seen in the counsels which He gives to the apostles when He sends them on mission. Through this instruction, He tries to renew and reorganize the communities of Galilee in a way that they would once again be the expression of the covenant, an example of the Kingdom of God.
• Matthew 10:7: The announcement that the kingdom of Heaven is at hand. Jesus invites the disciples to announce the Good News. They should say, “The kingdom of Heaven is close at hand!” What does it mean that the Kingdom is close at hand? It does not mean the closeness of time, in the sense that it is only a short time and then the Kingdom will come. “The Kingdom is close at hand” means that it is already within reach of the people, it is already “in your midst” (Lk 17:21). It is good to take a new look to be able to see its presence or proximity. The coming of the Kingdom is not the fruit of our observance, as the Pharisees wanted, but it becomes present in the actions which Jesus recommends to the Apostles: to cure the sick, to raise the dead, to cleanse the lepers, to drive out demons.
• Matthew 10:8: To cure, to raise, to purify, to drive out. The sick, the dead, the lepers, the possessed, were all excluded from living together with others and they were excluded in the name of God. They could not participate in the life of the community. Jesus orders the disciples to accept these people, to include them. The kingdom of God becomes present in these gestures of acceptance and inclusion. In these gestures of human gratuity is shown God’s love, which reconstructs communal living and mends interpersonal relationships.
• Matthew 10:9-10: Do not take anything. Unlike other missionaries, the Apostles can take nothing: “Provide yourselves with no gold or silver, not even with copper for your belts, with no sack for the journey or a spare tunic or footwear or a staff, for the laborer deserves his keep.” The only thing which you can and should take is peace (Mt 10:13). This means that they have to trust in the hospitality and sharing of the people, because the disciple who does not take anything with him and takes peace indicates that he trusts people. He believes that he will be received, and the people will feel appreciated, valued, and confirmed. The laborer has the right to his nourishment. In doing this, the disciple criticizes the laws of exclusion and recovers the ancient values of sharing and of community living.
• Matthew 10:11-13: To live together and to integrate oneself in the community. Arriving at a place, the disciples have to choose a house of peace and they should remain there until the end. They should not go from one house to the next, but rather live in a stable way. They should become members of the community and work for peace, that is, to reconstruct the human relationships which will favor peace. By means of this practice, they recover an ancient tradition of the people, they criticize the culture of accumulation, typical of the politics of the Roman Empire and they announce a new model of living together.
• Summary: The actions recommended by Jesus to announce the Kingdom are the following: accept the excluded, trust hospitality, encourage sharing, and live stably and in a peaceful way. If this happens, then we can and should cry out openly to the four corners of the world, “The Kingdom is among us!” To proclaim the Kingdom does not consist, in the first place, of teaching truth and doctrine, catechism and Canon Law, but to lead persons to a new way of living and of living together with others, to a new way of thinking and acting, starting with the Good News, brought by Jesus: God is Father and Mother, and therefore, we are all brothers and sisters.
4) Personal questions
•Why are all these attitudes recommended by Jesus signs of the Kingdom of God in our midst?
• How would you announce the Kingdom among us today? To whom would you need or want to announce it?
• In making this announcement, by being an example of the Kingdom in action, to go on this mission, it is an invitation to the hearer to come closer to Christ and the Church. Action goes hand-in-hand with knowledge and an understanding of what the community is about. What would be your next steps in bringing someone closer to the community, Jesus, and His Church?
• Do these instructions help us to discern true disciples of Jesus from those who use His name to distort the truth and build a big bank account for themselves?
For further knowledge
Many religious orders other than the Order of Carmelites, as communities, build on these missionary instructions of Jesus as well. The Benedictines take a vow of stability, to not move from place to place. Others, of the mendicant movement such as Franciscans and Dominicans, rely on the material support of others. Take some time today to look into and read about the various Orders and the ways they have chosen to announce the Kingdom of God in the world.
5) Concluding Prayer
Sing a new song to Yahweh,
for He has performed wonders,
His saving power is in His right hand and His holy arm. (Ps 98:1)