June 11th: The Feast of Saint Barnabas

According to popular interpretation, "Barnabas" means a person who consoles and encourages; this name was given to a certain Joseph, from Crete, who some weeks each year served in the liturgical functions of the Jerusalem Temple. We meet him first in the Acts of the Apostles, where he is praised for concretely living out the admirable goal of the earliest Christians: he sold a field he owned and gave the money to the Apostles for distribution, ’so that there be no Christian in need’ – a religiously inspired and consoling, encouraging act on behalf of the much less fortunate. Besides his concern that ’no one be in need’, he lived out gifts he was given by the Holy Spirit. In the Church in Antioch of Syria he served as both a prophet and a teacher, mediating God’s revelation to his fellow Christians and teaching the truths he and so many others had received about God and Jesus Christ. He helped St. Paul become friends with the Jerusalem Christians who were very reluctant to know this violent persecutor of their Christian family. And together with Paul, Barnabas again showed himself a consoler and encourager and a Christian prophet and preacher, catechizing Crete and what is now south-eastern Turkey. For whatever reason, he thought at one point that in Antioch he should not have a close relationship with Gentile Christians. But, guided by the reasoning of Paul, he readily changed and participated well in a Church where there was "no Jew and Greek, no master and servant, no male and female." To do the things he did, he must have had a winning personality (once he was identified as Zeus, the greatest of the Greek gods), a willingness to bring the word of God to friends and strangers, a satisfaction in serving his Christian community with the gifts given him and a determination to make sure that no one in his community was ever in need. Quite a man; too bad we do not know more of him! John Kilgallen, SJ

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