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For a large part of the liturgical year, we devote ourselves to listening to the mystery of Christ in all its aspects unfolded as we seek God's truth and understanding.
Barnabas, Apostle and Martyr, First Century
One of three persons formally recognized as Apostles who were not directly chosen by Christ among the original twelve, Barnabas was, nevertheless, extremely active in apostolic work.
St. Luke, who in the Acts of the Apostles tells us of the communal life of the early Christian community in Jerusalem, singles out Barnabas’ sale of his estate and his laying the money from this sale at the feet of the apostles as an example of Christian calling. In speaking of this incident, Luke interprets Barnabas’ name as meaning “son of encouragement” (Lk 4:36-37). It is in Luke’s writings where we first see the reference to Barnabas as an Apostle.
We know from other references in the Acts that Barnabas had a strong influence on the other Apostles and was active in the early councils and missionary activity of the Church. When St. Paul came to Jerusalem following his conversion, the apostles and the faithful were suspicious of his change of heart. It was Barnabas who took him in and vouched for him.
Later, Barnabas, “a good man, filled with the Holy Spirit and faith,” was chosen by the apostles to preach the Good News at Antioch. Barnabas brought St. Paul with him to assist in this mission which lasted a year. Barnabas and Paul then traveled together on Paul’s first missionary journey which carried them to Salamis in Cyprus and other Mediterranean ports. In Paphos, Barnabas and Paul converted the Roman proconsul. At Iconium, they narrowly escaped being stoned to death. Overall, the mission was a stunning success, gaining many converts to the Church.
A disagreement between Paul and Barnabas later ended their association and Paul left on his second missionary journey without Barnabas. This is the last mention of Barnabas in the Acts. One brief further mention of Barnabas occurs in St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians.
Tradition tells us that St. Barnabas died around the year A.D. 60, having been stoned to death at Salamis. Other traditions say that he preached in Alexandria and Rome and that he was the first bishop of Milan.
We celebrate this saint’s life with a memorial on June 11.
Barnabas’ message today: Barnabas sold all of his possessions and laid the money at the feet of the Apostles. We are not asked to take such drastic steps in support of our community, but we are asked to support the church community in those ways that we can.