Barnabus, The Son Of Encouragement

Last week at mass, I was leading worship and saw my youngest son in the first pew. As I watched him for a few moments, I realized that he is not responding and praying out loud during the Creed, Sanctus, etc. This irked me. It always has. Here is why… At the bus stop, on the soccer field, or in the driveway with friends, he is one of the loudest in the crowd. I love him for being so funny, and so boisterous. He knows who he is.

When we went out for breakfast afterwards, I tried to find a way to catechize the importance of participating and responding at mass. As we sat there talking over pancakes, this idea came to my mind. Here’s the conversation…

Me: “Son, your coach has been pressing the issue about you guys communicating on the field. Has it gotten any better?”
Son: “No, we still don’t communicate well.”
Me: “How is that affecting the team?”
Son: “We aren’t moving the ball down the field and scoring. We aren’t doing well”
Me: “Is encouraging one another important during a game?”
Son: “Yeah, it’s hugely important”
Me: “Is it important to have people cheering for you guys on the sidelines?”
Son: “It makes a huge difference.”
Me: “What is more important? Encouraging one another, or having people cheering on the sidelines?”
Son: “Definitely that we encourage one another, but having you guys cheering for us is super important too…”

Lightbulb moment…

Me: “So, can I share a few thoughts with you about Mass?”
Son: “Okay”
Me: “Do you know what the word ‘Liturgy’ means?”
Son: “No”
Me: “The short definition is that it is a public work, done for the service of others”
Me: “Have you ever heard me call the mass ‘liturgy’.”
Son: “Yeah, I think so…”
Me: “So, at mass, who is doing the work?”
Son: “Father John?”
Me: “Yes, and us. We, including you (in the pews) are doing the work.”
Son: “What do you mean?”
Me: “When we arrive at mass and pray together, we are encouraging and praying for one another. Your prayers and your voice encourage me in my prayer life. Our prayer is communal, so when we all gather together, we are praying for one another and encouraging one another. When I hear you singing praise songs and hymns to God, then it helps me to sing too. When I see your witness of being at mass, it encourages me to be there too. When I hear you confessing your sins during the Confetior, then it encourages me to come clean and sincerely pray that prayer too. When I hear you profess what you believe, it gives me more strength in my declaration of faith.”

Me: “So, just like you guys encourage one another on the field, our participation at mass encourages one another in our faith journey with God.”
Son: “I get it.”
Me: “What about the people on the sidelines cheering?”
Son: “…??..”
Me: “The people on the sidelines cheering are the Angels and Saints. All the people that have gone before us and have met Jesus face to face. They want us to be in heaven too. They are praying for us, and cheering us on in our journey with God.”
Me: “Did you know that at every mass, when we sing or say the Sanctus, that we are joining our voices with all the Saints and Angels in Heaven? Right before we sing that prayer, Father says that we ‘join our voices with the Angels and Saints as we joyfully acclaim’…”
Me: “When he says that, he means it. That means that we are singing with St. Francis, St. Augustine, Grandma, Aunt Anna, etc.”

Our readings at mass recently have told the story of Barnabus, called the “Son of Encouragement”. After Saul’s conversion, the early Christians were still scared of St. Paul. After a period of time, Barnabus went and encouraged St. Paul, making him part of the community and encourage him to live out his ministry. We see the life he lived, the letters he wrote, and the one for whom he lived (Jesus).

Who is the person in your path today that needs encouragement? Amen…


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