This Sunday the reading from Acts describes how Barnabas became the twelfth apostle, replacing Judas who had done the unthinkable, the unspeakable. Judas, who is forever remembered as the one who betrayed Jesus. And he is replaced by Barnabas.
Barnabas clearly walked with Jesus throughout his wandering ministry in Galilee and Judea. However we don’t hear about him until after Jesus has risen and ascended, until the first part of the story has ended, and the next part is about to begin.
Barnabas is said to mean “son of encouragement”. He travels with Paul on his missions to the Gentiles around the Mediterranean and is credited with founding the church in Cyprus. For all he was a quiet figure in the background of the gospels, he was also a tower of strength and faith, full of the Holy Spirit and God’s love.
It makes me wonder, how many others were there just like him. How many others who wandered with Jesus from the very beginning, who are now unknown and invisible. Men, women, of all personalities, who simply never made it to the front row, but without whom the entire group would have been far less vibrant and powerful.
And it makes me wonder about how each one of us is invited, drawn, called into relationship with God and into God’s service. We don’t know how Barnabas first came to know and follow Jesus. But we do know that he was chosen to be an apostle by drawing lots. In fact, that’s the reason the new Pope is chosen by lot, with all the cardinals casting their votes, supposedly inspired by the Holy Spirit as they do so (though especially in earlier centuries, politics had a lot to do with it too!!).
It is not a question of “if” we are called, or “if” we are chosen. God has called and chosen each and every person, simply by the act of creating them. And we are called and chosen to be our unique selves. We don’t have to become different than we are. We simply are invited to be the best version of our selves that we can. And there is something we can contribute which is unique to you, to me, to each of us.
And so I wonder, what is it that you have been quietly called to do and to be? When did you first become aware of God’s call to you? How did that happen?
As we await the renewal of the baptism of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost next Sunday, now is a wonderful time to reflect on this and give thanks for the unique gifts which God gives us in Jesus through his Spirit. And also to give thanks for the unique gift that each of us can give to each other and to the world in Christ.