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'Son of Encouragement'

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By Melanie Williams (Jun 10, 2016)
Do you use all of your gifts for the greater glory of God? Saint Barnabas sure did. Saint Barnabas, whose feast day is June 11, was a disciple of the early Church, "a good man, full of the Holy Ghost and of faith" (Acts 11:24).

Not actually one of the twelve apostles appointed by Jesus, Barnabas is given the honorary title of apostle along with St. Paul because they were commissioned together by the Holy Spirit to preach to and shepherd the people in Antioch.

Born Joseph, a Levite from the island of Cyprus and cousin to John Mark the Evangelist, Barnabas was the name given to him by the apostles. His kindness, gentleness, and compassion towards others earned him the name that means "son of encouragement."

We first hear of Barnabas in the Acts of the Apostles, chapter 4. Scripture tells us, "The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common" (Acts 4:32). When Barnabas heard of this he immediately sold his land and gave all of the proceeds to the Apostles to distribute to the poor. The next account of his good nature is in Acts 9 when he introduces the newly converted St. Paul to the apostles who had been hiding from him as they heard he was persecuting the Church.

"When [Saul] arrived in Jerusalem he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he was a disciple. Then Barnabas took charge of him and brought him to the apostles, and he reported to them how on the way he had seen the Lord and that he had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had spoken out boldly in the name of Jesus" (Acts 9:26-27).

Barnabas was not afraid of the man who was known to be one of the greatest persecutors of the Church. When he heard that Saul might have had a profound conversion, Barnabas was the first to give him a second chance.

Is there anyone in your life who you could give a second chance?

Saint Barnabas was later sent to Antioch to help foster unity and love within that community. No doubt his gift of encouragement and advocacy were well used there. Acts 11:23 states that when Barnabas arrived, he "saw the grace of God, he rejoiced and encouraged them all to remain faithful to the Lord in firmness of heart." In need of assistance in shepherding the flock, he went to Tarsus to summon his old friend Paul. After finding him, they both went back to Antioch, and "for a whole year they met with the church and taught a large number of people, and it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called Christians" (Acts 11:26)

Barnabas knew he could not do the mission God gave him on his own. He knew he needed help, and by reaching out to a friend for help, a flourishing community of believers came about.

What missions or tasks has God given you in your life? Do you ask for the help of others or allow others to help you? God often wants us to depend on others, because it reminds us daily of our dependence on Him. If we could do everything by ourselves, how would we know our need for God?

There were many more instances when Barnabas used his gifts for the service of God's Kingdom. When there was an approaching famine among those in Judea, St. Barnabas helped organize donations from the Gentiles' bounty for the poor. When the Jewish Christians wanted to impose Mosaic Law and ordinances upon the Gentile Christians, Barnabas was sent with others from Peter in Jerusalem to solve the dispute.

Saint Barnabas recognized that he had gifts of encouragement, organization, leadership, kindness, people-skills, and much more. What gifts do you see the Lord has given you? How do you choose to use them for the service of Christ and His Church?

The end of Barnabas' life is not certain. Early Christian tradition holds that he was the founder of the Cypriot church. It is most likely that he was martyred in A.D. 61 at Salamis.

Let us pray to St. Barnabas this day, that we may better recognize the gifts God has given us and use them for the building up of the Kingdom and the greater glory of God!

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