No, I’m talking about the Trinity (magnificent and mysterious as they are, they aren’t all fully human anyway). When I was in high school one of my good friends told me about a youth group session they had at her non-denominational Christian church about Saint Paul. What she told me years ago has stuck with me – nuggets of wisdom that we learn from Saint Paul even today.
At nearly every moment in your life there is a Saint Paul, a Barnabas and a Timothy. I don’t mean that you should always have a friend named Paul, Timothy and Barnabas (I have the first two but I can’t say that I’ve ever met anyone named Barnabas). We need each of these “people” in our lives for a reason, they may change over the course of time, but we need each of them nonetheless.
Saint Paul is the person who teaches us, we learn from him/her and they are the person that helps inspire and deepen our faith. Often times this person can (and perhaps should) be your spiritual director. Sometimes it is a parent, sometimes it is a boss or a mentor, but no matter who it is, we need someone in our lives who acts as our “Saint Paul”. Our faith should never reach a plateau and stay there because then it becomes all too easy to slide back down the mountain instead of ascending it, constantly striving towards Heaven. Our “Saint Paul” challenges us and pushes us to a deeper, more profound relationship with the creator of the universe.
Barnbas is the person who is on par with us, this is the person in whom we confide, who knows our secrets, and the person whose advice we seek on a regular basis. This person, more or less, is our equal. One might say this is your best friend, but your “Barnabas” should go deeper than that. Your “Barnabas” should be someone who shares the Faith, who journeys with you, someone who encourages you and you encourage them. This relationship is one that is mutually beneficial, one in which you both learn from each other. This person goes beyond the simple “this is what I did with my day…” topics, but really gets at the heart of you. Sure, you can have conversations about events and surface-level things, but your “Barnabas” can, and often does, get to the core of who you are, what makes you tick, etc. There is a big difference between an acquaintance or a friend and a “Barnabas”, a big difference between a friend of convenience and true brotherhood, or in my case, sisterhood [more on that next week!].
Timothy is the person you minister to. Remember that St. Paul wrote letters to Timothy to encourage him in his ministries and his missions. The need for a Timothy flows out of the natural progression of our faith – as we grow we share, our cup overflows and the love that God pours out on us is shared with His other children. Just like we shouldn’t let our faith reach a plateau, so too we shouldn’t let our faith be merely an individual faith, it must be lived out in a community, shared with others. Not to mention that we often learn from our “Timothys”. When I taught Confirmation classes I used to say that those teens kept me sharp, they were constantly questioning things about the Faith and about life and it kept me on my toes! The same can be said about “Timothy” – they challenge us by their questions and push us to keep the faith so that we can continue to minister to them.
We need each of these roles in our lives. If you find yourself lacking one or another, or are unsure as to who fulfills these roles in your life, pray that God would give you the eyes to see who they are. Ask Him to send you a person to fill that gap in your life for each of these roles works together: Paul challengs us so that we can challenge Timothy while Barnabas keeps us strong and lets us know that we are not alone. In some ways it is like the relationship between the Trinity (haha look I tied it all together!) on a human level, it is a community, a communion we are invited to live in. Often times over the course of our lives these roles change, the person who was my St. Paul yesterday may not be my St. Paul today. Sometimes your Timothy becomes your Barnabas, sometimes your St. Paul becomes your Timothy. Sometimes you will have more Timothys than you do St. Pauls (this tends to be my case simply by the merit of being a youth minister). Just because things and roles change doesn’t mean we don’t need at least one of each of them for they all call us, in their own way, to pursue holiness.