Monday, June 11, 2012

Co-Workers and Friends

St.Barnabas Healing the Sick
(Paolo Veronese)
Today is the feast of St. Barnabas, the Jewish Christian from the island of Cyprus who was the companion of St. Paul in his mission to the Gentiles.  They weren't simply fellow workers, but friends, and their friendship survived rejection and mob violence, the conflict within the Church of over circumcision and the Mosaic law and even the attempts of the pagans of Lystra to honor them as gods, after Paul healed a crippled man in that town.

But their friendship ended suddenly when Barnabas proposed that they bring back John, also known as Mark, to join their missionary band.  Paul disagreed, arguing that Mark had failed to remain with them on their earlier missionary journey and had turned back at Pamphylia.  So they quarrelled and the disagreement was so intractable that Barnabas sailed for Cyprus (accompanied by Mark) and Paul left for Syria, accompanied by Silas.  (Which is the last we hear about Barnabas in the Acts of the Apostles.)

Its sad to think about how often in the Church we part company (after quarrelling and disagreements) with our friends. Not because of a lack of faith (Paul and Barnabas continued to evangelize Jews and Gentiles and guide the new churches that they founded) but because of stubborness and wounded feelings. 

Sometimes fidelity to the truth as God gives us the wisdom to understand it requires an adamantine refusal to compromise, or to back down, but my guess is, that's pretty infrequent in most of our lives.  Usually (at least in my experience) when one probes a bit deeper, our conflicts with our fellow disciples of Jesus result from more from bruised pride, wounded feelings, disappointment, harsh judgments and stubborness.  Even when a lot is at stake, I know from personal experience as a card-carrying sinner,  that pride, hurt feelings, harsh judgments etc.. make it easy to personalize disagreement so as to lead to alienation and separation.

The challenge is to find a way to live and act with integrity and fidelity while never losing hold of the infinate value and dignity of the other, especially the other with whom we disagree and especially those with whom we disagree with the most deeply.    



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