Step #1: Lectio / Read
Acts of the Apostles 11:21B-26; 13:1-3
In those days a great number who believed turned to the Lord.
The news about them reached the ears of the Church in Jerusalem,
and they sent Barnabas to go to Antioch.
When he arrived and saw the grace of God,
he rejoiced and encouraged them all
to remain faithful to the Lord in firmness of heart,
for he was a good man, filled with the Holy Spirit and faith.
And a large number of people was added to the Lord.
Then he went to Tarsus to look for Saul,
and when he had found him he brought him to Antioch.
For a whole year they met with the Church
and taught a large number of people,
and it was in Antioch that the disciples
were first called Christians.
Now there were in the Church at Antioch prophets and teachers:
Barnabas, Symeon who was called Niger,
Lucius of Cyrene,
Manaen who was a close friend of Herod the tetrarch, 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, completing their fasting and prayer,
they laid hands on them and sent them off.
Step #2: Meditatio / Meditate
Sometimes, living out your faith is hard. Sometimes, praying every day is hard. Sometimes, having faith in the midst of difficult situations is hard. On today's feast day of St. Barnabas, we are going to reflect on what we should do when our faith feels hard, when it all just feels like work.
In the reading for today, we hear about Barnabas traveling to Antioch in order to be with the disciples there. Barnabas, in the midst of his joy at greeting all of these fellow believers, encourages them to always remain close to the Lord and faithful to Him in firmness of heart.
What does it mean to have firmness of heart? According to Pope Francis in a homily he gave not too long ago, it means having a heart that is not fickle, but rather one that remains firmly committed to God each day. As we all know all too well, this is easier said than done.
If you're anything like me, your prayer might look something like this: you sit down to pray, and begin to read. Before you know it, something that you heard earlier that day jumps into your head. You're sort of still reading, but also you're quoting the lyrics to Justin Timberlake's newest jam, and you have no idea what your prayer reflection is about. You then realize that, for 5 minutes or so, you've been dancing like no one is watching when really the people in the chapel are certainly watching, and so you try really hard to focus back on your prayer.
I'm assuming that, at one point or another, all of us have felt a distraction similar to this (if slightly less extreme). Today, in the reading from the Acts of the Apostles, Barnabas reminds us that a big part of our faith is learning to have the firmness of heart it takes to deal with these temptations, distractions, and trials, and yet always return our focus to the Lord.
Maybe today your prayer feels good, and it's pretty simple to stay focused. If it is easy, take the joy of Barnabas on today's feast and commit to the firmness of heart it will take to pray when it's not so easy.
Maybe today's prayer does not feel good, but instead just feels like work. If that's the case, take today's feast to praise God for the chance to learn the firmness of heart it will take to truly be a disciple the rest of your life, and put in the work it takes to pray as much today as you do when it feels good.
Prayer, first and foremost, is a response to God calling after us and desiring a relationship with us. Whether His voice is booming and clear, like it may have been at the moment of our conversion, or quiet like the whispering wind that Elijah hears, our response is the same: listen to Him, talk to Him, and put in the time it takes to grow in our relationship with God.
Step #3: Oratio / Pray
"When he arrived and saw the grace of God,
he rejoiced and encouraged them all
to remain faithful to the Lord in firmness of heart"
Where is my heart in my relationship with God today?
Am I praying as much today as I do when it most recently felt good? Or, if it does feel good, am I taking this time to grow and form the firmness of heart I'll need when it's difficult?
Do I rejoice with and encourage those around me?
Step #4: Contemplatio / Contemplation
Jesus, I trust in You.
I choose You, Lord, even when it's difficult.
Thank you for those who support me in my faith.
For the Rest of Your Day...
Rejoice in the people around you who bring you joy and bring you closer to God.
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Today's prayer was prepared by Jason Theobald.