Fr. John Eudes, OCSO
June 11, 2016
St. Barnabas, Apostle
Acts 11:21-26; 13;1-3
The account that Saint Luke proves of Saint Barnabas that we have just heard in the first reading on this his Feast day implies much more about his person than it states. This become even more evident when we read the several additional passages in the Acts that give considerably more details of Barnabas activity as an apostle. At the earlier period of the Church’s ministry, it was Barnabas, not Paul, who was recognized as the most effective preacher. He it was whom the Church leaders in Jerusalem chose to visit and further developed the faith at the important city of Antioch. During that time he not only strengthened the believers but, as Luke tells us Barnabas “was filled with the Holy Spirit and with faith. And as a result of the witness he and others gave many became Christians. He readily recognized the possibilities of further growth in that city and set out for Tarsus to bring Paul to work with him in spreading the faith in that important city of Antioch. Paul’s reputation as a fervent and capable preacher was already widely known and it was Saint Barnabas who convinced him to come to the more significant city of Antioch to make preaching and teaching more widely known.
The further ministry in the lives of these two apostles of the Lord was undertaken by an explicit intervention of the Holy Spirit to the community. We are told that the Spirit said “I want Paul and Barnabas set apart for the work that I have called them to.” To whom it was spoken or how, Luke does not explain, but the message was appreciated as coming directly from the Holy Spirit. Thus began a new phase in the Church’s growth. Barnabas and Paul soon proved very effective in convincing some Jews but the majority resented their active efforts and forced them to leave their area. This was the occasion for Paul and Barnabas to interpret this resistance as an indication that God willed them to preach the Gospel to the gentiles. Many of them were converted, we are told. This led to much rejoicing on their part. But soon our apostles were forced by the Jews to leave the area
It would be highly interesting to read the further accounts of the activities of these two very gifted and successful preachers who cooperated so fruitfully for the cause of the Gospel. All the more surprising, then, is the fact that before long they encountered a major difference over Paul’s refusal to accept John Mark whom Barnabas favored to accompany them. So strongly did each hold to his view that they had a bitter argument and the two separated. Each continued his mission but in separate localities.
In a no less aggressive way we are experiencing he same kind of argument in the Catholic Church today. Cardinals are publically disagreeing over serious issues in Rome; Cardinal Kiun in Hong Kong has told the Pope he will resign if the treaty with communist China currently favored by the Holy Father is adopted by Rome. Other instances, some in our own country, of differences over important matters are openly causing divisions. As we commemorate Saint Barnabas, the holy apostle of Christ’s Catholic Church, we do well to pray for the unity of practice and belief that both Paul and Barnabas, each in his personal way, labored and died for.