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Barnabas the Apostle: Making space

Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch where Barnabas had already been doing good work.

They worked together in Antioch and in time the Holy Spirit called them as something of a team to travel and spread the Good News.[i]

Barnabas made space for Paul to find his place within the Body of Christ.

Later he did the same with Mark when Paul didn’t want Mark to travel with them.  And in time Paul came to greatly value what Mark brought to the work.[ii]


In Henri Nouwen’s Reaching Out we hear:

In our world full of strangers, estranged from their own past, culture and country, from their neighbors, friends, and family, from their deepest self and their God, we witness a painful search for a hospitable place where life can be lived without fear and where community can be found.

Hospitality, therefore, means primarily the creation of a free space where the stranger can enter and become a friend instead of an enemy. Hospitality is not to change people, but to offer them a space where change can take place.

There’s a task for the parish church—the creation of a “free space.” Space in which people might find their place in the Body and grow in holiness of life.

How are we to make such a space in parish churches?

First it is to be a community of prayer, with a common life. A climate that is unhurried and measured. Not rushing from one thing to another but offering peace to all. A place in which you can breath. A place in which you regain week-by-week your baptismal identity and purpose.

Second we accept the person and take them into this parish community. Benedict wrote, “All guests must be received like Christ.” To seek Christ in all people of the parish—those we are at ease with and those that cause us discomfort; those we like and those we dislike; the familiar and the stranger.

Third to maintain the boundaries of the community – the community’s life must be protected so it might serve its members and the guest and stranger.

The guest/visitor is not to be allowed to disturb the reliable and nurturing order of the parish.  The community needs to do its work and live its life—a work and life of Mass and Office, community and reflection, and service grounded in awe and adoration.  We are to protect the rhythms and ways of the parish community both in service to the baptized members but also so the guest may have "the experience" of that life.


[i] Acts 11-13

[ii] 2 Tim 4:11; see also Col 4:10 and Phil 24