Saint Barnabas was an important figure in the early Church, joining the apostles to spread the Good News throughout the world. We can learn much from this saint and his life of generosity, friendship, and forgiveness. He really put the phrase, put your money where your mouth is, into practice.
“That was his nickname that the apostles gave him, his real name was Joseph. But they gave him the nickname Barnabas which is two words: bar, meaning ‘son of’, and nabas is ‘encouragement’,” said Steve Ray, Catholic convert, author, and apologist.
“He played a really important role because he was the one right in the middle of the whole transition. Because the first probably five to ten years it was only Jews who were in the Church,” said Ray. “It wasn’t until Cornelius, the gentile Centurion became baptized and became a Christian, it was all just Jewish people and then all of a sudden the Gentiles start coming in. These uncircumcised gentiles—the Jews considered them dogs and unclean—and Barnabas is one of the first ones to understand what the Gospel really was; it wasn’t just for the Jews, it was also for the Gentiles.”
Barnabas owned property on the island of Cyprus, and sold everything he had to support the poor and the mission of the early Church, giving the money from the sale of his land to the apostles (Acts 4:36). He also brought St. Paul to the apostles in Jerusalem and told them of his conversion in Damascus (Acts 9:27). “He found Saul of Tarsus, Paul, who had just been converted a little while [before] and they got together and became a team to go out and preach to the Gentiles and bring the Good News back to the Jews in Jerusalem. So he was very key in the beginning of the whole Church,” explained Ray.
St. Mark the Evangelist was Barnabas’ cousin, and they both went with Saint Paul to Asian Minor. According to the Acts of the Apostles, Mark abandoned Paul and Barnabas and returned to Jerusalem, which caused a rift to form between Paul and Barnabas. “It’s a story of reconciliation and redemption because eventually you see towards the end of the New Testament that not only does Mark come back and work with Paul, but also with Peter. And then he becomes Peter’s secretary—he wrote Peter’s Gospel. Peter is in Rome and he’s preaching and Mark takes what he preached and he put it in the Gospel of St. Mark.”
Do you believe so wholeheartedly in the words of Christ that you are willing to give up everything to follow him? What can you give to Christ and his Church today? How can you go to the ends of the earth to bring others closer to the Lord?
St. Barnabas, pray for us!