His Grace, Bishop JOSEPH’s remarks on the 20th Anniversary of St. Barnabas Church
February 11, 2007
Costa Mesa, California
Beloved in Christ:
On this joyous occasion of the 20th anniversary of this community, I cannot help but think of how much this parish reflects the character of its patron saint. After all, St. Barnabas was a preacher of the Gospel who traveled to the ends of the Roman Empire in search of converts. While this is not a ‘traveling parish,’ all of you have never abandoned this spirit of reaching out to and embracing all kinds of people. You have sought out the lost, and brought them home. You have opened your doors and your hearts, and never been ashamed to share the Gospel.
‘Barnabas’ means ‘son of consolation,’ and so you have consoled those who have come into your midst. And so, God has added to your number, for it is spiritual healing that people most desperately need. As you introduce people to the way of repentance and conversion, teaching them the Apostolic traditions, you remain grounded in the Gospel.
The world desires to fracture us from one another. When isolated and alone, either emotionally or spiritually, we can be easily driven to despair. Therefore, the Gospel was given to a community, the community of the Apostles, as opposed to single persons. Everything we do in the Church is done as a community. We confess our sins to one another. We sing the hymns and recite the Scriptures together. From a great Cathedral to an Icon corner, the Body of Christ can be found wherever two or more of us come together.
All of these are communal acts. They are the activities of a family. God calls Himself our “Father” for a reason. It is not an arbitrary title, but is a warning to us: come together as a family, or you cannot be saved.
In our modern life, having a unified and functioning family is a big accomplishment. It takes a lot of work, more work that it used to. These days, there are many more temptations to leave one’s families so that one can pursue selfish ambitions. Of course, at the end of the road is a meaningless life, one that is utterly broken off from all genuine human contact. After all, the relationships we seek and that give us a sense of security and fulfillment are the ones that endure. But if we live only to abandon those relationships that might demand something of us, what will be left?
The Gospel and the witness of the saints teach us that true peace and joy can only be achieved when we resolve never to abandon God, even in the face of suffering and death. How do we gain such resolve? Through practice. How do we practice? By sticking to one another through hard times.
If you have come to the Church seeking an easy faith, you have come to the wrong place. If you think that God is here merely to validate your own opinions, then you shall be disappointed. God is here to save us, and we reach out to Him by admitting that we are wrong. We must confess our sins and beg for mercy without reservation or excuse. We have no excuses in light of God’s mercy and generosity.
Do you seek to do good? Then do good to one another. Listen to the wonderful singing of your choir. Your choir creates a worshipful environment because they sing together. They have harmony because they work harmoniously together.
You have many active youth. The greatest lesson you can teach them is patient endurance of trials, so they can learn to live within both their biological families as well as their Church families.
Continue on the path of salvation, and do not forget the sufferings of your patron saint. If you desire to be holy as St. Barnabas, than do not flee from your sufferings. Instead, bear your burdens and the burdens of your brothers and sisters. Take up your cross and follow the Lord. Never forget that the Kingdom of Heaven is a community, and so prepare yourselves by remaining faithful to your parish family.