Christ is risen! (only a few more days until our greeting changes to “Christ is Ascended!”)
Today is a particularly special day for your writer in that today we remember St. Barnabas of the Seventy. St. Barnabas was the missionary companion of the Apostle Paul and actually introduced the converted persecutor of the Church to the 12 in Jerusalem. Today’s Epistle reading says: “IN THOSE DAYS, those apostles who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to none except Jews. But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Greeks also, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number that believed turned to the Lord. News of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad; and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose; for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a large company was added to the Lord. ” Acts 11:19ff
“He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith.” Can you imagine a greater reputation than that?
But, how does one go about getting such a reputation? If you know the story of St. Barnabas, you know that he was the leader of the 70 followers of Christ during His earthly ministry. These 70 were the men who followed Christ during His ministry and were subject to the 12 Apostles. They weren’t the “inner circle” but humbly served the Lord and the Apostles in ministry. St. Barnabas also was the one who brought Paul to the 12 Apostles after St. Paul’s conversion to Christ on the road to Damascus. St. Barnabas continued his service to the Lord by serving the ministry of St. Paul. Finally, St. Barnabas ended his life in martyrdom on the island of Cyprus in witness to his faithfulness to Christ.
St. Barnabas epitomizes our second basic practice of the faith that simply is indispensable to a purposeful Orthodoxy.
If one is going to end his or her life well with the kind of reputation that St. Barnabas had, he or she will have to practice the virtue of Humility.
Now, like repentance, humility is often misunderstood. Some think humility is weakness. Some have misinterpreted humility as actively putting yourself down (usually in an attempt to get those around you to strongly disagree so you can illicite compliments from them!). But neither interpretation is remotely near the truth about the beauty of humility. A wise man once said that “humility isn’t weakness, but strength under control.” Humility is actually a determined commitment to reality – the reality that even my very breath is a gift of God so what do I have to boast about?
The practice of humility doesn’t invite a false sense of humility but an honest assessment of my own dependence on God for everything. If my only desire is to enter into an everlasting and loving relationship with God, then why do I need to defend myself? Why spend my energies and precious time worrying about others assessments of me?What could it possibly matter, in light of eternity, if I achieve temporary fame? Could anything be more shallow and vapid?
Today, my dearest, read the lives of the saints. Notice how they regularly embraced the false rumors about themselves and confessed to weaknesses no honest person could ever believe they possessed, all in a radical commitment to fight the temptation of false self-focus and any temptation to waste precious time on temporary and fleeting trials. Humility takes seriously the temporariness of earthly life and even persecutions and looks beyond these momentary sorrows to the life of the age to come.
Today, embrace a strength under control and give an honest look at your self-awareness. Give glory to God and enter the daily practice of humility. There is no adornment more beautiful.