Monday, June 11, 2012

Memorial of Saint Barnabas, apostle

(Acts 11:21b-26.13:1-3; Matthew 5:1-12)

The patriots of the American Revolution risked their lives and their fortunes in order to establish the new nation. Surely George Washington and John Adams would have been hung for treason had they not prevailed in their cause. Today the Church honors one of the patriots of the faith. Although he was not a disciple of Jesus, St. Barnabas joined the Christian community in its infancy and gave himself for its growth.

Barnabas is first mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles as Joseph, a Jew from Cyprus. He is the man who sells some property he owns and gives all the proceeds to the apostles. He becomes the emissary of the Jerusalem community to Antioch where pagan Greeks are turning to faith in Jesus. His name is translated by the author of Acts as “son of encouragement” as if to say that he is the indicated person for the work because of a sunny temperament. Perhaps his congeniality makes him the right person to investigate the strange news from Damascus that Saul, formerly the terror of Tarsus, has converted to Christ. Barnabas will accompany the newly named Paul until, according to Acts, his willingness to overlook a fellow traveler’s indiscretion clashes with Paul’s apostolic discipline.

Obviously, Barnabas has much to teach us. Generosity, friendliness, and dedication are indispensable on the Christian journey. Most of all, perhaps, Barnabas models Christian hope. We do not place ultimate stock in what we acquire for ourselves. No, God has graced us immeasurably in Christ. What we do merely reflects His goodness and propels us closer to Him.