Today, June 11th, the universal Church honors St. Barnabas, a great evangelizer and martyr.
St. Barnabas was a Jew of the Tribe of Levi, born in Cyprus. He was not one of the chosen twelve apostles, but because of his important apostolic works, the Early Church Fathers and St. Luke himself referred to him as an apostle because of the special commission he received from the Holy Spirit. His original name was Joseph. However, the apostles changed it to Barnabas which is interpreted, “man of encouragement.”
We find St. Barnabas first mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles, wherein there is an explanation how the converts at Jerusalem lived in common and that as many were landowners or homeowners, those properties were sold and the proceeds of those sales were given to the apostles for distribution. Hence, St. Barnabas’ property is therein mentioned.
Subsequently, the apostles thought that one of them should be sent by the Church in Jerusalem to Antioch, to instruct the Faith. They chose St. Barnabas who enlisted the assistance of St. Paul, who spent a year with him teaching the Gospel in Antioch. St. Barnabas and Paul were very successful and many converts were made.
Sometime later, the flourishing Christian Church in Antioch raised money to help their brethren in Judaea as the people there were suffering from a famine. This money was given to St. Paul and St. Barnabas and they returned to Judaea giving the members of the Church there this generous gift.
St. Paul and St. Barnabas received a commission to go on a missionary journey to Iconium, the capital of Lycaonia. They escaped this jurisdiction, having almost been stoned to death. However, a miraculous cure of a crippled individual occurred at Lystra through St. Paul, which inspired the people there to believe that actual “gods” were among them. Therefore, they referred to St. Paul as the god “Hermes,” and St. Barnabas as the god “Zeus” or “Jupiter.” Of course, both St. Paul and St. Barnabas set forth the real Truth and preached the Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ. They then went to Derbe, making many Christian converts, retracing their steps wherein they went to those cities to confirm the converts and to ordain presbyters. They then returned to Antioch, being very pleased with what happened.
It is most likely that St. Barnabas was still living and working in 56 A.D. or 57 A.D. pursuant to I Corinthians ix, 5 and 6. However, St. Paul’s invitation to John Mark to join him whilst he was a prisoner in Rome, infers that by on or about 60 or 61 A.D. St. Barnabas must have died. It is said that St. Barnabas was stoned to death at Salamis.
We thank you for your holy example of faith, hope and love, as well as your immense courage, to preach the Gospel to everyone who would listen, to bring Christ to everyone and to die for Jesus and His Church. We ask you to help us in this world, inasmuch as there is tremendous “in your face evil.” St. Barnabas, please pray for us that we may be the Light of Christ to everyone.
With love and respect,
Sources: Franciscan Media; One Hundred Saints, Bulfinch Press; Vatican website