We often hear the man named Barnabas mentioned in scripture as a companion of St. Paul in his many ministry travels. He traveled with Paul throughout his ministry to the Gentiles as he preached and encouraged the disciples in their faith. Paul is well known to us. We know of his miraculous conversion and we have his many letters to the churches he established in the name of Jesus. But who was Barnabas and why is he mentioned at all, if Paul was the evangelist.
If it were not for Barnabas, we may have never heard of Paul at all. And certainly not in Paul’s ministry to the Gentiles and his spreading the Word of God to the churches we know so well from his letters and travels, Antioch, Ephesia, Corinth and even Rome. The knowledge of God’s presence in the world may have taken even longer to establish without Barnabas.
In the ancient world names had more meaning than they do today. Simon became Peter, the Rock to signify the foundation upon which Jesus would establish his Church. Barnabas was originally known as Joseph. The name, Barnabas, was given to him by the apostles. It means “son of encouragement” and aptly fits who Barnabas was, especially to Paul. Barnabas was an excellent preacher and as Luke described him, “a good man, filled with the Holy Spirit.”
Paul was having a tough time of it trying to become a disciple of Jesus. Most of the Apostles were suspicious of Paul, who had been a grand inquisitor for the Jews and a zealous persecutor of the disciples of Jesus before his conversion. When he came to Jerusalem to join them, they put him off and finally sent him back to Tarsus, away them.
Barnabas, who was head of the church in Antioch, saw the Holy Spirit working in Paul and invited him to come to Antioch as his assistant. Together, for a year they preached and taught to the people and made many converts to the faith there. Barnabas gave Paul the encouragement to fulfill his destiny as an apostle and bring the word of Jesus to the Gentiles. They traveled together to far away lands and Paul, the “student” surpassed Barnabas, the “teacher” to become the great evangelist to the Gentiles, thereby making God’s presence known and greatly furthering the mission of the church in fulfilling Jesus’ command to “go and baptize all nations.”
Barnabas is the loving model for sponsoring the faith in others. By his encouragement and great love of Paul he gave the church a great gift. His love of Jesus showed in his love for all and marked him as a disciple of Christ. His encouragement of Paul to become all he was meant to be played a defining role in God’s plan for his people. Barnabas’ love helped make disciples of all of us here today.
Together, Paul and Barnabas, in their great love for one another and their love for their brothers and sisters in Christ, modeled the Christian ideal of which Jesus spoke, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
In showing our great love we are marked as Disciples of Christ. It is in our actions as followers of Jesus that we are recognized as one of His own. Our discipleship is witness to our faith in Christ Jesus and our belief in God’s promise of salvation. We make known God’s presence in the world in our loving discipleship in Jesus.
- It is in the way we treat the least of His people that we are seen as true believers and followers of the Way of the Lord.
- It is in the way we welcome the stranger in our midst;
- In the way we love one another that we show Jesus’ love for us: the love of God, the Father, and the Holy Spirit.
- It is in the way we walk with one another on our journey of faith,
- In the way we love and encourage one another that makes God’s presence known among the faithful and inspires others to come to Christ
St. Francis advises us to, “Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.”
Our actions and our love for one another are inspiration to the world of the power of God’s love and his message of peace and salvation. Our love for one another encourages others to want to become disciples of Jesus:
- to know Him
- to follow Him and
- to be numbered among his disciples.
In the love of Christ we have for one another - we bring into the world God’s presence among us. And in this love we show the world the path into glory of God and his promise of Life Eternal with God in heaven - forever and ever.
Deacon Don Ron