Year of Barnabas?

Sts. Barnabas and Paul the pagan priest in Lystra
Sts. Barnabas and Paul with the pagan priest in Lystra

The Church has dedicated a year to commemorating the 2,000th anniversary of the birth of St. Paul. Half of the books of the New Testament have St. Paul for their human author. St. Paul is one of the most famous and well-beloved saints of all time.

St. Paul made his first apostolic journeys alongside St. Barnabas.

In a comical episode in Lystra, the locals mistook Barnabas and Paul for Greek gods. They mistook Barnabas for Zeus and Paul for Hermes. Zeus is the king of the Greek gods; Hermes is Zeus’ spokesman. The locals’ mistake, therefore, leads us to believe that Barnabas seemed to be the one in charge.

During St. Paul’s second missionary journey, he and Barnabas agreed to separate and work in different territories.

Martyrdom of St. Barnabas
Martyrdom of St. Barnabas
St. Barnabas then went on to do what St. Paul did, just in different parts of the world. St. Barnabas preached, explained the faith, wrote evangelical letters, etc.

St. Barnabas could well have written as much or more than St. Paul did. We do not know, because most of the writing of the ancient world has been lost.

The Lord, in His Providence, saw to it that a great deal of St. Paul’s writing was collected in the New Testament. St. Barnabas’ writing was not included in the canon of Scripture.

My point is: This year could just as easily have been the Year of St. Barnabas. Barnabas could have become the famous one.

St. Paul could have remained a relatively obscure saint, with just a humble Memorial every year. (N.B. Click through this link to discover a wonderful weblog with the daily Mass readings correlated with the excellent Haydock commentary!)

St. Barnabas, however, is not worried about the discrepancy. He is in heaven, after all, with St. Paul. Neither of them are concerned with earthly glory.

St. Barnabas was never worried about earthly glory. All he ever worried about was…

1. Getting to heaven himself.

2. Helping other people get there.