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On Paul's Collaborators

"Holiness Doesn't Consist in Not Making Mistakes or Never Sinning"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 1, 2007 (Zenit) - Here is a translation of Benedict XVI's address at Wednesday's general audience. The Pope dedicated his address to the figures of three of St. Paul's collaborators: Barnabas, Silas and Apollos.

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Continuing our journey among the leaders of the Christian origins, today we look at other collaborators of St. Paul. We must acknowledge that the Apostle is an eloquent example of a man open to collaboration: In the Church, he does not want to do everything on his own, but makes use of numerous and diverse colleagues.

We cannot reflect on all these precious helpers, as they are many. Suffice it to recall, among others, Epaphras (cf. Colossians 1:7; 4:12; Philemon 23), Epaphroditus (cf. Philippians 2:25; 4:18), Tychicus (cf. Acts 20:4; Ephesians 6:21; Colossians 4:7; 2 Timothy 4:12; Titus 3:12), Urbanus (cf. Romans 16:9), Gaius and Aristarchus (cf. Acts 19:29; 20:4; 27:2; Colossians 4:10).

And women such as Phoebe (cf. Romans 16:1), Tryphaena and Tryphosa (cf. Romans 16:12), Persis, mother of Rufus, of whom he says, "also his mother and mine" (cf. Romans 16:12-13), not forgetting spouses such as Prisca and Aquila (cf. Romans 16:3; 1 Corinthians 16:19; 2 Timothy 4:19).

Today, among this great army of men and women collaborators of St. Paul, we are interested in three of these persons who had a particularly significant role in the evangelization of the origins: Barnabas, Silas and Apollos.

"Barnabas," which means "son of encouragement" (Acts 4:36) or "son of consolation," is the nickname of a Levite Jew born a native of Cyprus. Having moved to Jerusalem, he was one of the first to embrace Christianity, after the Lord's resurrection.

With great generosity, he sold a field that belonged to him, giving the money to the Apostles for the needs of the Church (cf. Acts 4:37). He became the guarantor of Saul's conversion to the Christian community of Jerusalem, which still mistrusted its former persecutor (cf. Acts 9:27).

Sent to Antioch of Syria, he went to look for Paul in Tarsus, where he had gone, and spent a whole year with him, dedicating himself to the evangelization of that important city, in whose Church Barnabas was known as prophet and doctor (cf. Acts 13:1).

So Barnabas, at the moment of the first conversions of pagans, understood that Saul's hour had arrived; Saul had gone to Tarsus, his city. He went there to look for him. In that important moment he virtually restored Paul to the Church; he gave it, in a certain sense, once again, the Apostle of the Gentiles.

From the Church of Antioch, Barnabas was sent on mission, together with Paul, undertaking the Apostle's so-called first missionary journey. In reality, it was Barnabas' missionary journey, given that he was the person in charge. Paul joined him as a collaborator, crossing the regions of Cyprus and central-south Anatolia, in present-day Turkey, through the cities of Atalia, Perga, Antioch of Psidia, Lycaonia, Lystra and Derbe (cf. Acts 13-14).

Together with Paul he then went to the so-called Council of Jerusalem where, after a profound examination of the question, the Apostles with the elders decided to abandon the practice of circumcision (cf. Acts 15:1-35).

Only thus, in the end, did they allow it officially to be the Church of the pagans, a Church without circumcision: We are children of Abraham simply through faith in Christ.

The two, Paul and Barnabas, confronted each other later, at the start of the second missionary journey, because Barnabas wanted to get John Mark as a companion, while Paul did not want to, given that the youth had separated from them in the previous journey (cf. Acts 13:13; 15:36-40).

Hence, also among saints there are oppositions, discords and controversies. And this is very consoling for me, as we see that the saints have not "fallen from heaven."

They are men like us, with complicated problems. Holiness does not consist in not making mistakes or never sinning. Holiness grows with the capacity for conversion, repentance, willingness to begin again, and above all with the capacity for reconciliation and forgiveness.

And in this way, Paul, who had been somewhat hard and bitter with Mark, in the end meets him again. In the last letters of St. Paul, to Philemon and in the second to Timothy, Mark appears precisely as "my collaborator."

We are not made saints because we never make a mistake, but because of our capacity to forgive and reconcile. And we can all learn this way of holiness. In any case, Barnabas, with John Mark, returned to Cyprus (cf. Acts 15:39) around the year 49.

From then on all traces of him were lost. Tertullian attributes to him the Letter to the Hebrews, which is not ...

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