Friday, June 10, 2011


“Apostles Paul and Barnabas in Lystra”
by Jacob Jordaens, 1645


Additional Information about St. Barnabas

Readings for the Memorial of St. Barnabas [1]

Readings and Commentary: [2]


Acts of the Apostles 11:21b-26; 13:1-3

In those days a great number who believed turned to the Lord.
The news about them reached the ears of the Church in Jerusalem,
and they sent Barnabas to go to Antioch.
When he arrived and saw the grace of God,
he rejoiced and encouraged them all
to remain faithful to the Lord in firmness of heart,
for he was a good man, filled with the Holy Spirit and faith.
And a large number of people was added to the Lord.
Then he went to Tarsus to look for Saul,
and when he had found him he brought him to Antioch.
For a whole year they met with the Church
and taught a large number of people,
and it was in Antioch that the disciples
were first called Christians.

Now there were in the Church at Antioch prophets and teachers:
Barnabas, Symeon who was called Niger,
Lucius of Cyrene,
Manaen who was a close friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.
While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said,
"Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul
for the work to which I have called them."
Then, completing their fasting and prayer,
they laid hands on them and sent them off.
Commentary on Acts 11:21b-26; 13:1-3

The up-swelling of believers outside of Jerusalem may be indirectly attributed to the efforts of the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem. By driving out many of the Hellenistic Christians in Jerusalem, these pilgrims took their faith with them and planted the seeds of faith in Antioch (and other places within the Roman Empire). To affect consistent catechesis and evangelization, Barnabas was sent to help form this informal community into a center of faith which in its turn launched others to fulfill the mission of Christ in the world.

Barnabas is sent by the body of the Apostles to investigate the situation in Antioch and to discover what Paul is doing. Recall, Paul went through his conversion on the road to Damascus and never received guidance or direction from the Apostles. The last they knew, St. Paul was still on the “other side”. Barnabas journey therefore was, at least until he reached Antioch, tense. Barnabas finds Paul in Antioch and the two of them begin an aggressive evangelical ministry.

In the second section (Ch. 13) we see Barnabas and Saul (St. Paul) sent out from Antioch to spread the Gospel. Saul the convert and Barnabas the Apostle were set apart by the Lord of this purpose and strengthened themselves spiritually through prayer and fasting prior to their journey.

CCC: Acts 13:2 1070; Acts 13:3 699, 2632

Psalm 98:1, 2-3ab, 3cd-4, 5-6

R. (see 2b) The Lord has revealed to the nations his saving power.

Sing to the LORD a new song,
for he has done wondrous deeds;
His right hand has won victory for him,
his holy arm.*
R. The Lord has revealed to the nations his saving power.

The LORD has made his salvation known:
in the sight of the nations he has revealed his justice.
He has remembered his kindness and his faithfulness
toward the house of Israel.
R. The Lord has revealed to the nations his saving power.

All the ends of the earth have seen
the salvation by our God.
Sing joyfully to the LORD, all you lands;
break into song; sing praise.
R. The Lord has revealed to the nations his saving power.

Sing praise to the LORD with the harp,
with the harp and melodious song.
With trumpets and the sound of the horn
sing joyfully before the King, the LORD.
R. The Lord has revealed to the nations his saving power.
Commentary on Ps 98:1, 2-3ab, 3cd-4, 5-6

Psalm 98 is a song of praise and thanksgiving. We see in this selection how God is praised for the strength he lends his people and the salvation he brings to those who are faithful. From our perspective, knowing that he sent us his Son for our salvation, we see clearly the reference to Jesus as God’s saving hand is extended.


Matthew 10:7-13

Jesus said to the Twelve:
"As you go, make this proclamation:
'The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.'
Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, drive out demons.
Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give.
Do not take gold or silver or copper for your belts;
no sack for the journey, or a second tunic,
or sandals, or walking stick.
The laborer deserves his keep.
Whatever town or village you enter,
look for a worthy person in it,
and stay there until you leave.
As you enter a house, wish it peace.
If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it;
if not, let your peace return to you."
Commentary on Mt 10:7-13

Jesus gives instructions to the Apostles as he sends them on their mission to proclaim the Kingdom of God. They are to go into the world without any provisions and will depend upon the generosity of others. The Lord gives them authority over all manner of diseases and afflictions but reminds them that they are not to charge for these gifts of healing.

CCC: Mt 10:5-7 543; Mt 10:8 1509, 2121, 2443; Mt 10:10 2122

St. Barnabas, whose feast day we celebrate today, is a remarkable figure in the history of Christianity. He was not one of the “Twelve” yet like St. Paul, his longtime friend and confederate, bore the title “Apostle.” Scripture tells us that he was born on Cyprus and was of the tribe of Levi (Acts 4: 36). Born with the name “John,” the Twelve renamed him Barnabas which means “Son of Encouragement.” He lived up to this name as we hear in the first reading, for when he arrived in Antioch and found a lively Christian community thriving there “…he rejoiced and encouraged them all.”

In the latter part of that same account from Acts the church prays over both St. Barnabas and St. Paul and sends them on what we now know was St. Paul’s first missionary journey. And what was their first stop: Cyprus, St. Barnabas’ home of origin.

As we recall the important role St. Barnabas played at the very beginning of our Church, we take away three lessons. First, we give thanks for God’s gift of St. Barnabas. With St. Paul they were the first ones who accepted the Lord’s instruction to take the Gospel to the whole world. As St. Matthew’s Gospel tells us, they were not always accepted, but challenged in their work. Yet they were courageous in the face of this opposition.

Next we see in St. Barnabas one who, like many of those singled out by God for special purposes, like ourselves with no special outward mark that would have caused us to take note of him. Yet, he accepted the mission to which God called him and for which the church ordained him. His example is one that should inspire us all.

Finally, we see in St. Barnabas the apostolate of encouragement. He spoke out for the faith fearlessly, yes. But he also encouraged those who faced challenges to the faith as his name implies. His encouragement of others is an important mission, one we may all accept as we encourage one another to live a more active faith.

Today we ask St. Barnabas to pray for us that we might accept the portion of that mission that was entrusted to him, and like him, be an encouragement to others.


[1] The picture is “Apostles Paul and Barnabas in Lystra” by Jacob Jordaens, 1645
[2] The readings are taken from the New American Bible with the exception of the Psalm and its response which were developed by the International Committee for English in Liturgy (ICEL). This re-publication is not authorized by USCCB and is for private use only.

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