The word of God continued to advance and gain adherents. Then after completing their mission Barnabas and Saul returned to Jerusalem and brought with them John, whose other name was Mark.
Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a member of the court of Herod the ruler, and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.
So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia; and from there they sailed to Cyprus. When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews. And they had John also to assist them.
O God, be gracious and bless us
and let your face shed its light upon us.
So will your ways be known upon earth
and all nations learn your saving help. (R./)
Let the nations be glad
and exult for you rule the world with justice.
With fairness you rule the peoples,
you guide the nations on earth. (R./)
Let the peoples prise you, O God;
let all the peoples praise you.
May God still give us his blessing
till the ends of the earth revere him. (R./)
Jesus said aloud: "Whoever believes in me believes not in me but in him who sent me. And whoever sees me sees him who sent me. I have come as ligh into the world, so that everyone who believes in me should not remain in the darkness. I do not judge anyone who hears my words and does not keep them, for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. The one who rejects me and does not receive my word has a judge; on the last day the word that I have spoken will serve as judge, for I have not spoken on my own, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment about what to say and what to speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I speak, therefore, I speak just as the Father has told me."
Today’s Gospel tells how Jesus spoke on behalf of the One who sent him. “The Father who sent me has told me what to say and how to speak.” Jesus’ aim in life centred on doing the Father’s will and sharing the Father’s merciful vision of the human family.
Likewise the Acts describes the loving union between the members of the church and their fidelity to God. In the church at Antioch, they were fasting when gathered for prayer, because they were seeking special guidance. They hoped that fasting would open their minds more fully to what God wanted from them. That was when the Holy Spirit inspired a prophecy, to send Barnabas and Saul on a special mission. “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work..” This echoes some great prophets, like Jeremiah, who knew he was set apart from his mother’s womb, or the Suffering Servant of Isaiah, who was called from birth to be a light to the nations (Jer 1:5; Is 49:6).
Through Barnabas and Paul the message of Jesus would be shared with a new, wider community of disciples in other places. Faith in Jesus would spread across the Roman empire, starting with this first mission journey to the island of Cyprus. The Holy Spirit did not give detailed instructions, only a call to go on the journey. At first they proclaimed their message in Jewish synagogues only. But soon they began to attract more and more gentiles and to spread the message of Jesus to the wider world.
Just as the united disciples at Antioch were spurred to mission by the Holy Spirit, so the church continues to seek to unite all people as one worlewide family in Christ. At the heart of this mission is the word of God. As we share this word with others, it always brings something new to those who have already accepted Christ. Faith and mission are closely linked, like the mission of Jesus himself. The impulse comes from above, from the Father who continues to prompt us on a journey of mercy and love.
Often in John’s gospel, Jesus speaks of the God who sent him. God sent his Son out of love for the world. This sending involves a real giving, for God gave his Son to us and for us. Likewise, the church of Antioch gave its two most gifted speakers to parts of the Roman Empire where Christ had not yet been preached.
The sending out of Barnabas and Paul took generosity on the part of the Antioch Christians, who were sacrificing their best speakers for the sake of others. In centuries past, the Irish church has sent its most gifted members to bring the gospel far from our shores. That is the vocation of our Church and our own vocation as Christians, to share what is most precious to us for the benefit of others. Each local church, each parish, is called not just to maintain itself, but to serve other groups whether near or far away. We seek to be as generous with others as God has been with us.