As many of you know, I am a Third-Order Benedictine monk, at the name of my profession I was given the name Br. Barnabas. Barnabas means, “son of encouragement,” I have tried very hard to live into/reflect this spiritual gift in my life and ministry.
Who was St. Barnabas, not much is known about St. Barnabas outside the New Testament’s witness. His real name is Joseph, a Jew from Cyprus, he was from the tribe of Levi. He was an early follower of Christ and was identified as an apostle in Acts 14:14. He was the one to give St. Paul a second chance and introduced him to the other Apostles. Barnabas worked with the Church at Antioch, but found the work to be very difficult and sent for Paul in Tarsus to help him at Antioch. After a year they were sent to Jerusalem with the contributions from Antioch. Soon after this they went on their first missionary journey to Asia Minor.
Sts. Paul and Barnabas converted many Gentile God-fearers to Christ. It seems from the account in Acts that Paul was the preaching missionary, since some Gentiles compared him with Hermes and Barnabas was compared to Zeus. We do not really know what Barnabas did in this missionary journey, but it is likely he also preached, performed miracles, and like Paul was persecuted for the Gospel. Part way through the journey Mark, who we learn from the letter to the Colossians is Barnabas’ cousin, abandon’s Paul and Barnabas. After the journey they return to Antioch and are again sent to Jerusalem, where they give advice concerning the relation of the Gentiles to the Christian movement. Barnabas was included in the proclamation Peter, James, and John made, assigning Paul to preach to the Gentiles and to remember the poor in Jerusalem.
After this journey to Jerusalem they returned to Antioch and worked there for some time again. Paul then suggests they go on another missionary journey. Barnabas agrees, and suggests they take Mark along with them again. Paul objects and the two split ways, with Paul taking Silas and going to Syria and Cilicia and Barnabas and Mark going to Cyprus.
It would seem that it is in Barnabas’ character to give people a second chance, encouraging them to not give up on their short comings, but to press on for the Lord. He gave Paul, the chance the other apostles were unwilling to give him because he had persecuted the church. He gave Mark a second chance to complete a missionary journey. We do not know of the other encouragement that Barnabas gave to the church in this time. He was important to the Church at Antioch the third most important city, in the Roman Empire, at his time, the place were the followers of Jesus were called Christians. He was also present at the council of Jerusalem and he advice was taken on the matter of Gentile Christians.
The tradition of the Church says Barnabas was martyred by being stoned in Syria. Tertullian believed he was the author of the Letter to the Hebrews. There is also a Epistle of Barnabas associated with him, but most likely not written by him, but by an unknown author in Alexandria around 130.
How does, being a “son of encouragement” affect my life. I believe I have been given the gift of encouragement by the Holy Spirit. Which seems odd be to me because I think I lean more to the mindset of realist or pessimist. But it seems the Holy Spirit wants me to work on this and encourage people. And while having the mind set that I do, I encourage people to see the good that they are doing even if they don’t get the results that they hoped to achieve. I have also used this gift in encouraging people by telling them about the saint that they remind me of. I have found this to be a great encouragement to people to see how their lives line up with some great men and women in the history of the church.
So let me end this with the Collect of St. Barnabas from the Anglican Church: Grant, O God, that we may follow the example of your faithful servant Barnabas, who, seeking not his own renown but the well-being of your Church, gave generously of his life and substance for the relief of the poor and the spread of the Gospel; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
If you would like me to try to encourage or pray for you in some way leave me a comment or send me an email or some kind of message, I would be happy to pray for you.