Hearing about some new development in something near and dear to us can evoke a variety of responses. We may immediately interpret it as interference. We might be curious, or we might become anxious or disturbed. It is very instructive how the early Church reacted to the news that a large number of Gentiles in the area of Antioch were becoming followers of Christ. They decided to send someone to learn more about what was going on.
As our first reading from Acts about today’s saint indicates, they clearly picked the right man. His name—Barnabas—literally means “Son of Encouragement.” When he arrived and saw the grace of God, he rejoiced and encouraged them. Someone who was not a good man filled with the Holy Spirit and faith might have taken a course that would have impeded the expansion of the Church among the Gentiles.
Too often new members of parish pastoral councils or committees are squelched with the remark, “We’ve never done it that way before.” Our Jesuit 34th General Congregation has a document that reminds Jesuits to have a profound respect for the ways in which God is already at work in the lives of all men and women. God’s action does not begin with what we do.
What new things are developing around me? How is God already at work in them? How do I move forward with the direction the Spirit is taking?
—Fr. Joe Folzenlogen, S.J. is vice-superior of the Faber Jesuit Community in Cincinnati and Director of Claver Jesuit Ministry.