We have met Barnabas briefly, the man who laid money at the feet of the apostles after selling his land. He is called, ‘Son of Consolation’. His gifts are at work as he goes to Antioch to assess a questionable situation in which non-Jews are responding to the Good News. Barnabas, ‘a good man filled with the Holy Spirit’, rejoices at what he sees and gives his encouragement. We can add discernment to Barnabas’ gifts as he goes to Tarsus seeking and returning with Paul to work with him in Antioch. Looking ahead we know that the relationship between Paul and Barnabas will come apart and they will be unable to continue their work together. The little bit said of Barnabas and the shared ministry of these two disciples invites reflection on our working together in the Church.
The gospel concludes the brief reflection on the Good Shepherd. John’s gospel and our Easter celebration keep the gift of faith before us. Although John introduces these verses of the gospel as taking place during a different feast, the Dedication, they are connected to the previous verses which in turn connect us with he healing of the blind man at the pool of Siloam – one of the great Lenten gospels of coming to faith.
How different the attitude of the man healed at Siloam. Expelled from the temple Jesus approaches and asks him, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answers, “Who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” “You have seen him. He is speaking to you now.” “I do believe, Lord,” he said, and bowed down to worship him. In contrast we hear from the Pharisees, “How long are you going to keep us in suspense? If you really are the Messiah, tell us so in plain words.” Jesus concludes saying that he has already told them and they do not hear; they refuse to believe his words they are not his sheep. Sheep know and respond to the voice of their shepherd.
We end the reflection on a gentle note and one keeping with setting of the Good Shepherd readings during the feasts of Tabernacles and Dedication The sheep who hear the voice of Jesus, follow him to eternal life, they do not perish because the Father’s hand will protect them.
Today’s reflection on the large area of faith focuses on the assurance of the Father’s care for us. We see this first in the other gospel readings for this week which jump ahead to different chapters of the gospel, but each affirming us in our faith: whoever looks on me sees the one who sent me, his commandment is eternal life; whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me, and accepting me is accepting the one who sent me; do not let your hearts be troubled…I am the way, the truth and the life; if you ask anything in my name I will do it.
Also, the setting of the Dedication celebrated the rededication of the temple which three years before had been desecrated by Antiochus Epiphanies. The Father’s works that are celebrated in the temple are now present and visible in the works of Jesus. He is the way to the Father, the one who makes the Father known. The beautiful temple may be destroyed and not rebuilt but we have faith in Jesus, the one raised up in three days.
Fr. William Murphy, CP is the pastor of Immaculate Conception parish in Jamaica, New York.