In today's general audience Benedict XVI resumed his catechesis on outstanding figures of the early Church, concentrating on the three principal collaborators of St. Paul: Barnabas, Silas and Apollos. The Holy Father pointed out for the six thousand people gathered in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall, the example St. Paul provides for Christian collaboration in the field of ministry as well as for the necessity of continuous conversion, since “Sanctity grows in the capacity for conversion and penance.”
"We must recognize," the Pope began, "that the Apostle was an eloquent example of a man open to collaboration: in the Church he did not want to do everything by himself, but made use of many different colleagues."
Barnabas "was one of the first to embrace Christianity," the Pope explained, "and it was he who guaranteed the sincerity of Paul's conversion before the Christian community of Jerusalem, which still distrusted its one-time persecutor."
The Holy Father also recalled how Barnabas had participated in the Council of Jerusalem, at which it was decided "to distinguish the practice of circumcision from Christian identity."
However, he noted, Paul and Barnabas "fell into disagreement at the beginning of the second missionary journey because Barnabas wanted to bring along the young John Mark, and Paul did not."
"Even among saints differences, discord and controversies arise," commented the Holy Father. "And I find this a consolation because we see that saints have not 'come down from heaven.' They are people like us, with problems, even complicated problems. Sanctity does not consist in never having made mistakes or sinned. Sanctity grows in the capacity for conversion and penance, of willingness to start again and, above all, in the capacity for reconciliation and forgiveness."
Silas, also known as Silvanus, communicated the decisions of the Council of Jerusalem to the Christians of Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia. "Evidently he was held to be capable of mediating between ... Jewish Christians and Christians of pagan origin, thus serving the unity of the Church in the diversity of her rites and origins."
Apollos was a "cultured man well-versed in the Scriptures," the Pope continued. He preached in Ephesus and also in Corinth where, however, his success "had problematic overtones because some members of the Church there, fascinated by his oratory, in his name set themselves against the others."
"Paul expresses appreciation for Apollos activities but reprimands the Corinthians for being divided. He draws an important lesson from the whole affair: Both I and Apollos, he writes, are no more ... than simple ministers, through whom you have come to the faith. All have different tasks in the field of the Lord."
The Holy Father concluded: "These words are still valid for everyone today, for Popes, for cardinals, bishops, priests and lay people. We are all humble ministers of Jesus. We serve the Gospel to the extent that we can, according to our gifts, and we pray to God that He may make His Gospel and His Church grow today."