Thursday, June 11, 2015

The One with the Bat Signal


Feast of St. Barnabas
Matthew 5:20-26

         He must have some sort of bat signal; a red light that goes off somewhere; some sort of new app for his iPhone that buzzes whenever I’m having a really crappy day. 

Can you say crappy in the Sacred Liturgy – I hope so.  It is, after all, a technical term.  A crappy day is one when nothing seems to go right, when everything in the parish that can go wrong does go wrong – it’s a day when prayer seems empty, the ministry seems futile, the resources seem scarce, and the only thing that seems appealing is plopping down on the couch and binge watching old Friends reruns on Netflix.  If you look up crappy day in the priest’s desk reference, the encyclopedic entry describes a day when it’s a good thing you leave the big key ring with all the keys to everything on it in the console in the car, because if they were too close at hand you’d be tempted to toss them in an envelope with no return address and mail them directly to the Bishop.

Maybe you never have days like that – but I do.  More of them than I’m proud of.  And somehow Fr. Charles seems to randomly call, out of the blue, right in the middle of every single one of those days.  He’s not in my deanery; he’s not in my priest support group – I’ve never served a parish assignment with him. In fact, other than being a priest that I look up to and respect, one whose life and ministry are often an inspiration to me from afar – apart from that, and getting along well when we happen to be in the same place, Fr. Charles and I don’t have any particular kind of relationship.  Which is why it amazes me that every single time I’m having one of those days, somehow he seems to know about it, and pick up the phone.

‘Alan – Charles here – didn’t need anything in particular – you were just on my mind and I wanted to call and say I appreciate you and your ministry.  I’m here for you brother – is there anything you need – anything I can do to support you?’

I found myself sitting next to him at our deacon ordinations last Saturday – as we were singing a hymn, I leaned over and said to him, ‘Charles – I’m so grateful for all your encouragement – you’re a real gift to me in my priesthood – a real gift to our diocese.’  Fr. Charles is an encourager.

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While we know a little more about St. Barnabas than some of the apostles, we don’t really know all that much about him.  He was an apostle; he traveled and worked with St. Paul in bringing the Gospel to the Gentiles.  That’s about all we know about him – but we do know this:  Barnabas was an encourager.  ‘When he arrived and saw the grace of God, he rejoiced and encouraged them all…’  This apostle was born Joseph, but being an encourager was such a part of who he was – even in his own new and developing discipleship well before he was called to join in apostolic ministry – the apostles changed his name to Barnabas – which means son of encouragement.

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As I was leaving the Cathedral this past Saturday, I drove right past Charles, and reflected to myself how many days those random phone calls from him had saved the day, changed the crappy into the joyful.  He didn’t sell a field and lay the money at my feet – he made a simple phone call – he lived as a brother to brothers in the priesthood – he shared a moment of himself with another.

Driving the hour and a half back to Grayson I reflected that a real part of being a priest is joining St. Barnabas in the holy ministry of encouragement.  Maybe we’re not all as spiritually in tune as Charles is with the ups and downs of our others; maybe we don’t all have that God-given ‘knack’ to sense when our brothers need an encouraging word – not all of us can have a bat signal that lets us know when to pick up the phone.  But we can all be encouragers – for our brother priests, for our parishioners, for the clerk at the grocery store, and the random people we meet on the street.  It doesn’t take much to encourage someone – a smile, a kind word, asking ‘how are you´ and meaning it…

          Being an encourager can be encouraging; when we get out of our own funk and find a way to say an encouraging word to someone else, even the crappiest of days gets just a little bit better.
          Today on the feast of St. Barnabas, I wonder if we can follow his example, and become sons and daughters of encouragement, too.

1 comment:

Peggy Carter said...

Thank you Fr. Charles!! And thank YOU Fr.Alan for reminding us to BE encouraging to those we encounter each day.