St. Barnabas

June 11

Acts 11:21-26, 13:1-3; Matt 10:7-13

The Commissioning of the Twelve

Today we are celebrating the Feast of St. Barnabas. His given name was Joseph, but apostles, identifying very accurately his special charism, called him which means, “Son of Encouragement” or “Son of Consolation.” He was a Levite Jewish convert, coming to the faith soon after Pentecost and taking the name Barnabas. Though not of the chosen Twelve Apostles, Barnabas is mentioned frequently in the Acts of the Apostles precedes that of St. Paul in the earlier accounts of their work together. And he was included as among the prophets and doctors at Antioch.

The first witnesses of Barnabas’ encouragement were the apostles themselves, when he sold his farm and other properties and gave the proceeds to the Apostles as he was initiated into the young Christian community. Maybe he must have literally done what Jesus told His disciples, ‘without cost you have received, without cost you are to give.”

The next to receive his encouragement was Saul. After Saul’s conversion, Saul decided to go to Jerusalem but everybody was afraid to be with him because he persecuted the church. What if Saul or Paul was pretending to be a Christian simply to infiltrate the community? So their fear was understandable. Barnabas was the only who trusted Saul and introduced him to the apostles.

Barnabas was a companion of St. Paul in the apostle’s missionary journey after he sold Like St. Paul, St. Barnabas believed in the Church’s mission to Gentiles and worked with him in Cyprus and Asia but split with him for a reason we do not know, maybe over a non-theological matter. He was considered an Apostle. He evangelized in Cyprus with Saint Mark and founded the Church in Antioch. He was the subject and possible author of some apocryphal works.

The Church honors St. Barnabas with the title “apostle”. That word, which means “one sent”, was first used in the New Testament of any Christian missionary, and only later restricted to “The Twelve” who had been chosen especially by Our Lord, (plus St. Paul, because of his special calling). The title is applied to Barnabas in the broader sense. He died as a Martyr.

But what does the example of St. Barnabas say to us today?

First, he knew that in following Christ through the help of St. Paul, the task of the Twelve was not just in proclaiming the Word of God but also in doing Deeds. It is because they had to heal the sick, to raise the dead, to cleanse the lepers and to cast out demons.

Second, he showed us an example of an actively maintained faith-based lifestyle. We need this especially that today many of us have the tendency of putting God gradually on the sidelines. The only way on how to combat this tendency, according to Fr, Steve Tynan (Sabbath, June 11, 2008), is by actively maintaining a faith-based lifestyle. That is to live our faith without compromise. Fr. Tylan said that we can only do this if we stand together and encourage one another to live out our Christian beliefs in an increasingly ambivalent and even hostile environment. We need the constant support of one another to do this. We need to develop lively faith communities that will encourage and support all those who want to live out our faith without apology.

Third, he showed us an example of giving another a second chance. It is because he was the one who introduced St. Paul to the Apostles after his conversion. St. Paul was given a second chance since the Christians knew him as Saul to be a persecutor and enemy of the Church. May we learn from him, giving others a second chance after they have committed another mistake.

At the end, Ad Gentes (a Vatican II document) no. 2) says that the Church on earth is by its very nature missionary. Therefore we can say that to be a missionary is part and parcel of being a Christian. It is because Christ is sent by the Father, so we are sent too. And as a missionary, we should be competent, patient, indefatigable and uncomplaining. Let us give ourselves totally to Christ without counting the cost.

See Today’s Readings: Memorial of Saint Barnabas

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