Barnabas does not feature in the gospels but he is a significant figure in the Acts of the Apostles, Luke’s story of the early years of the church. He was originally a leading member of the church in Jerusalem. According to this morning’s first reading, he was instrumental in encouraging a new development that took place in the city of Antioch, where the gospel was preached to pagans for the first time.
He clearly saw the hand of the Lord in this new phenomenon. According to our reading, Barnabas encouraged Saul or Paul to leave the church in Tarsus, Paul’s home city, and to come to the church in Antioch because he recognized that Antioch would be an ideal location for this great apostle to the pagans. Barnabas himself seems to have become a leading member of the church of Antioch. He worked alongside Paul there and together they were sent out on a mission by the church of Antioch, travelling to Cyprus and beyond.
Barnabas is portrayed in the Acts of the Apostles as an enabler, an encourager. What he enabled and encouraged others to do turned out to be just as significant as what he did himself. In the gospel reading, Jesus says to his followers, ‘You received without charge, give without charge’. One of the ways we give is by creating a space for others to give and to grow.
This is where Barnabas comes into his own. He recognized and encouraged the workings of the Spirit in the lives of others. He didn’t try to do everything himself; he stepped back and allowed the Lord to work through others. That takes a certain generosity of spirit, a willingness to rejoice in the gifts of others and allow them to find expression. We can all learn from Barnabas that delicate art of creating space for others to flourish. Amen
Fr. John Peter