June 11, 2018
by Molly Mattingly
Creighton University's Campus Ministry
click here for photo and information about the writer

Memorial of Saint Barnabas, Apostle
Lectionary: 580/359

Acts 11:21B-26; 12:1-3
Psalms 98:1, 2-3AB, 3CD-4, 5-6
Matthew 5:1-12

Praying Ordinary Time

Weekly Guide for Daily Prayer

Understanding the Mass
Praying the Psalms

When I looked at today’s readings, my first thought was, “What can I say about the Beatitudes that they haven’t heard fifty times already?” I started looking into the story of St. Barnabas, wondering why the Beatitudes were chosen as readings for his feast day.

Most of Barnabas’ story is found in the Acts of the Apostles, including the bit in the first reading today. He sold his property and gave the money to the early Christian community in Jerusalem. He was named Joses until this act of generosity, when the apostles gave him the name Barnabas, meaning “son of the prophet,” “son of consolation,” or “son of encouragement.” He helped that early community to accept and welcome Paul. He and Paul worked together on missions to preach and help start Christian communities in other major cities, most notably Antioch. He must have had a noble presence, because the Lystrans called him Zeus (Hermes (Paul) was the primary speaker)! Barnabas and Paul stopped working together after a disagreement over whether Mark (Barnabas’ relative) should be invited to preach with them in the communities they had helped to build.

I particularly relate to a few aspects of Barnabas’ story. First, he was a gifted preacher and must have had a magnanimous presence. But, we only know about him because he traveled with Paul, one of the very people he had introduced to that first community in Jerusalem! It seems to me that Barnabas was a master accompanist. As a campus minister, parish staff member, and an accompanist on piano/organ, that behind-the-scenes role of walking with and empowering others to take the spotlight appeals to me greatly. We wouldn’t have gotten Paul and a good chunk of the New Testament, at least not in the same way, without Barnabas the consoler and encourager.

Second, Barnabas is traditionally called “the peacemaker.” (Aha! There’s the Beatitudes connection!) I see that in the gift he must have had to knit communities together. I especially appreciate that title because the last we hear of him is a situation when he and Paul could not make peace and had to part ways. They must have been close friends, after working and praying together on shared missions for years. The split must have been painful. I’m glad that a saint known for making peace had his human limitations, too.

Finally, Barnabas preached by joy. From the accounts in the Acts of the Apostles, he was someone that people liked to be around. Today we hear, “When he arrived and saw the grace of God, he rejoiced and encouraged them all to remain faithful to the Lord in firmness of heart, for he was a good man, filled with the Holy Spirit and faith.” Isn’t that joy exactly how Pope Francis encourages us all to spread the Good News? In Barnabas’ case (and hopefully in ours too), it led to many people receiving the Gospel, overcoming cultural divides, and sharing in that joy.

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