11 June 2024 – St Barnabas, apostle

11 June 2024 – St Barnabas, apostle

Barnabas was born in Cyprus, one of the first converts in Jerusalem and taught at Antioch. A companion of St Paul on his first missionary journey, took part in the Council of Jerusalem. Returned to Cyprus where he died.

1st Reading: Acts 11:21-26; 13:1-3

The zealous beginnings of the church in Antioch

The hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number became believers and turned to the Lord. News of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he came and saw the grace of God, he rejoiced, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast devotion; for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were brought to the Lord.
Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for an entire year they met with the church and taught a great many people, and it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called “Christians.”
Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a member of the court of Herod the ruler, and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.

Resp. Psalm: Ps 98

R.: The Lord has shown his salvation to the nations

Sing to the Lord a new song,
for he has done marvellous deeds;
His right hand has won victory for him,
his holy arm. (R./)
The Lord has made his salvation known:
in the sight of the nations he has revealed his justice.
He has remembered his kindness and his faithfulness
toward the house of Israel. (R./)
All the ends of the earth have seen
the salvation by our God.
Sing joyfully to the Lord, all you lands;
break into song; sing praise. (R./)
Sing praise to the Lord with the harp,
with the harp and melodious song.
With trumpets and the sound of the horn
sing joyfully before the King, the Lord. (R./)

Gospel: Matthew 10:7-13

Our Lord’s guidance to his first missionaries

Jesus said to his apostles: “As you go, proclaim the good news, “The kingdom of heaven has come near.” Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment.
Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for labourers deserve their food. Whatever town or village you enter, find out who in it is worthy, and stay there until you leave. As you enter the house, greet it. If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you.”


Helping our church to grow

Barnabas was one of the most amiable and life-promoting of the early Christians. Luke calls him “a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith.” A trusted confidant of many, he shared much of his property with the poor, and it was he who helped the former persecutor, Saul/Paul, to gain entry to the Christian community in Jerusalem. As portrayed in Acts, Barnabas had the sort of unselfish, encouraging personality that made him a great ambassador for the Gospel. He was the perfect delegate to be sent by the apostles to support the growing church in Antioch.
Saul (later called Paul) had been too blunt in his way of presenting Christianity in the synagogues to which he once had belonged. For the sake of peace, the apostles sent him back to his native Tarsus, into virtual exile, to cool his heels until he learned to temper his speech to the volatile circumstances in Jerusalem. Fortunately, however, Barnabas did not want Paul’s great gifts to be wasted, knowing how precious they would be to the Christians in Antioch . So, as Luke relates with relish, he brought Saul to Antioch where, between them, they instructed many in the faith, integrating Jewish and Gentile converts into what  the first truly “catholic” church. It was from this dynamic community that Barnabas and Paul went out on the first foreign mission, to Barnabas’ home island of Cyprus, and then further afield up into Asia Minor. The Church later incorporated elements of their ordaining ceremony. The two missionaries were sent out BOTH by the Holy Spirit’s impulse AND by prayer, with the laying on of hands.
Our Gospel for his feast reports Jesus’ guidance to his twelve apostles, with the urgency and goodwill that their mission required. They were to be zealous with the message and in the ministry of healing, and practice a sober, purposeful lifestyle, unconcerned for the trappings of wealth and status. How well Barnabas, and later Paul, measured up to those missionary requirements is well illustrated in their story as told by Luke, and then by Paul in his letters. Today’s feast can serve to recall all of us to those qualities in Barnabas which gave such a boost to the growth of the Church in his time. With pastors like him, our Church could have a great revival.

The gift of encouragement

The kindly Cypriot, Barnabas, was admired for his gift of animating others. His given name was Josef, but Barnabas was added as a nickname which means “son of encouragement.” We see him engaged in that ministry in today’s text from the Acts. Something powerful and new was stirring within the Christian community in Antioch. In that city the gospel had for the first time been preached to pagans as well as Jews and therefore a new kind of church was emerging there, a group that included members of Jewish and non-Jewish background.
When Barnabas was sent to Antioch by the apostles to assess what was happening there, he immediately recognised it as the work of the Lord and sided with this new development. He turned out to be absolutely right; it was indeed the work of the Lord. God is always at work in new and creative ways among us and it is a great gift to be able to recognise divine inspiration wherever it is to be found, and to celebrate and encourage its effects. Barnabas had this gift of noticing where the Lord was a work because, as the narrator says, he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith (Acts 11:24). We need to be open to the Spirit, in order to recognise the work of the Spirit. As Saint Paul says in one of his letters, spiritual things are discerned spiritually (1 Cor 2:14).

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