St. Barnabas Miscellanea

Raphael Sacrifice at Lystra
Raphael, Sacrifice at Lystra

You probably remember that, six weeks ago, we read from Acts, chapter 13, as part of our Easter-season Scripture reading at Mass. We heard the narration of Sts. Barnabas and Paul setting sail from Syria to begin their first missionary journey. We paused to venerate that beautiful and decisive moment.

That moment also led to the most comical episode in the New Testament. Barnabas and Saul eventually reached the pagan town of Lystra, in Asia Minor. Paul healed a crippled man who believed the Gospel. The townspeople then decided that Barnabas and Paul must be… the gods Zeus and Hermes. The priest prepared oxen to sacrifice to them.

“Men, why are you doing this?! We are human beings like you! We proclaim the good news that you should turn from your idols to the living God, Who made heaven and earth and sea and all that is in them.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church quotes St. Barnabas on two important points…

1) “Do not live entirely isolated, as if you were already justified, but gather instead to seek the common good together.”

2) “You shall not slay the child by procuring an abortion.”

St. Barnabas loved his native Cyprus. He returned there after his many journeys to see to the Christian education of his people. Barnabas lived to be an old man, but eventually enemies of his from Syria came to Cyprus and conspired to have him killed. Barnabas suffered martyrdom by stoning.

Pray for us, holy apostle Barnabas! Give us a share in your majestic humility and zeal for souls!

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.