If there is one thing that young people, people your age, think about while they're growing up it is relationships. Friendships. And frequently accompanying those thoughts is a lot of drama. Why do we think about friendship so much? Because “nobody wants to be alone.”
To put it more positively, we all, all of us, want to be “connected” … we all want “to feel like we belong.” Now, if we are honest with ourselves, we’d say that’s true and that’s a good thing because that's the way God made us. We read that in the story of creation in the Bible, God himself says “it is not good for the man or woman to be alone (Genesis 2:18)”…
In our scripture today, in our readings, we hear about Paul and Barnabas. Now these two dudes were good friends. Barnabas, a follower of the Lord Jesus, met Paul, whose name was originally Saul of Tarsus before his conversion to Christianity.
Now, remember that for years Paul had persecuted the Christians whenever and wherever he found them before he became one. That’s all that people in Jerusalem knew about Paul. That's all they remembered, was that we was a persecutor of the believers. Barnabas, though, Barnabas reached out. He accepted him as a friend and took him under his wing to teach him about the Lord Jesus and about the Lord's message. They work together in the early Church for a long time. Paul eventually became the greatest preacher of the Gospel…
Barnabas saw something in Paul when the rest of the world rejected him. He showed him love. He showed him mercy. Paul, on the other hand, responded to Barnabas’ reaching out. You know what happened? “Love triumphed. Mercy was victorious.” Together, these two friends rose up and brought many people who saw their friendship in the Lord Jesus, and brought them to God.
That’s the wonderful thing about friendship: it can accomplish great things. It can also do just the opposite. Their friendship wasn’t easy. It started out in completely different directions. And there were even disagreements later on in their life. But they saw the Lord Jesus in one another and in all the possibilities that faith in him would offer.
When you reach out in friendship to one another, what are you looking for? What do you want from a friend? Just someone to hang with? Or something deeper, something more important, something that really brings you together despite the differences that exist between you?
Paul was against everything Barnabas stood for and believed. But Barnabas was on the right path, the good path, the path the Lord Jesus set before him. Paul didn’t deserve Barnabas’ friendship; he didn’t earn it. Most people of their day wouldn’t even imagine them being friends, let alone people who worked together to spread the Catholic faith…
So in this auditorium here at Mass, I want you to take a look around. Go ahead, look around. You know what? There are a lot of Pauls and Barnabases here, friends we have known and friends we have just met.
We are “all connected;” we “all belong” because the Lord Jesus has brought us together as his friends, as his flock, as his sheep, and we follow him to do what is right. The drugs, the violence, the pornography and sex, the bullying, the gossip, the bad judgment, the hatred, the name calling, the discrimination, the isolation have no place in our life of faith, have no place in our friendship with Jesus or our relationship with one another as Christians.
In the Lord Jesus, our Shepherd, we are never alone. We “hear his voice. We follow him.” Like Barnabas and Paul were, we are the new Apostles in the Church and we have a mission to live the Gospel and to spread it. And that mission is all of ours, we share that, together as friends. And, so, my friends: rise up! Love has triumphed and always will. Mercy has been victorious and always will be!
Let me hear you say Amen. Amen!