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Thoughts to Live by | Memorial of St. Barnabas (June 11)

1. Some Notes on St. Barnabas -- Barnabas was a Jew, born in Cyprus. His original name was Joseph the Levite or Joses the Levite. He is mentioned mainly in the Acts of the Apostles and in some of Paul' letters. As a member of the early Christian community in Jerusalem, he sold his land and gave the proceeds to the Apostles, who named him Barnabas (Acts 4:36-37).



2. It was Barnabas who introduced Paul to the Apostles. He was then sent to Antioch in Pisidia (in modern-day Turkey) to lead the preaching to convert Gentiles (Acts 11:19-20). He sought the assistance of Paul from Tarsus (Acts 11:25). After one year, the two were sent to Jerusalem to give the contributions of Antioch for the relief of poorer Christians in Judea. They returned to Antioch with John Mark, a relative of Barnabas, and the author of the Gospel according to Mark. "It was in Antioch that the disciples were first called Christians" (Acts 11: 26).


3. Barnabas and Paul undertook their first missionary journey together (see Acts 13-14). They went to preach in Cyprus and in some of the principal cities of Pamphylia, Pisidia, and Lycaonia. In Lystra, Barnabas was regarded as Zeus and Paul as Hermes, "because he was the chief speaker" (Acts 14:11-13). But they were later stoned out of the city. In Acts 14:14, St. Barnabas is called Apostle.


4. After this first missionary journey, Paul and Barnabas returned to Antioch. In 48 AD, they were sent to consult the church in Jerusalem about the Gentiles. James, Peter and John agreed with them that the two would preach to the Gentiles, without having to adopt Jewish practices (Gal. 2:9-10). At first, Peter himself ate with the Gentiles, but disciples of James reproached Peter for not following the Mosaic law. So Peter stopped. And so did Barnabas. Paul, however, reproached Peter for not following the Gospel "and even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy" (see Gal. 3: 11-13).


5. When Paul asked Barnabas to accompany him again, Barnabas wanted to take John Mark, but Paul said no, because John Mark had left them in Perga in their first journey. This became a rift between the two great missionaries. Barnabas took John Mark wifh him to Cyprus (Acts 15:39), while Paul took Silas with him to Cilicia. Not much is said afterwards regarding Barnabas. Tradition sees him preaching in Alexandria and Rome.


6. The Gospel of Barnabas and the Epistle of Barnabas are apocryphal writings that are falsely attributed to him. St. Barnabas died c. 61 AD. One tradition says that he was martyred by being stoned to death in Salamis, Cyprus. The Cyprus Church believes that St. Barnabas appeared to Archbishop Anthemios of Cyprus in a dream in 488 and revealed his burial site. Anthemios found the grave, with the body of St. Barnabas holding a manuscript of St Matthew's Gospel on his breast. Archbishop Anthemios placed the remains in a church which he built near the tomb in the city of Salamis. St. Barnabas is venerated as the Patron Saint of Cyprus.


7. St. Barnabas, once converted to the faith, became an indefatigable missionary of the Gospel. Like St. Paul, he undertook missionary journeys and made heroic sacrifices, undergoing violent reactions to his preaching in various cities. "He was a good man, filled with the Holy Spirit and faith. And a large number of people was added to the Lord" (Acts 11:24).


8. Prayer -- O God, you set apart Saint Barnabas to preach the Gospel and convert the Gentiles. He was truly a man filled with faith and the Holy Spirit. Grant, we pray, that we may proclaim by our lives and deeds the Gospel of Christ which he strenuously preached. Through Christ our Lord. Amen. (The Collect for Today's Mass).


Prayers, best wishes, God bless!

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