The Catholic Defender: St. Barnabas, Traveler and Missionary for Christ
June 11, 2018
The Catholic Faith over the past two thousand years have branched all over the world through that apostolic witness beginning with Jesus call for the Apostles to go to all the Nations. The New Testament tells how the Church first began our missions starting in Jerusalem and the Holy Land.
One of the earliest follows of Christ and his Apostles was a Jewish born citizen coming from Cyprus often called Joseph. He was a business man who had property and he gave monetary support to the Apostles. Acts 4:36-37 states, "Thus Joseph who was surnamed by the apostles Barnabas (which means, Son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, sold a field which belonged to him, and brought the money and laid it at the apostles' feet."
The Apostles gave Joseph a nick name calling him St. Barnabas because of the support he offered them. St. Barnabas offered much consolation exhorting the Apostles in their service to the community. St. Barnabas was a great asset and bridge between the Apostles and the new Believers who were being added to the young Catholic Church.
After the conversion of Saul who would become Paul, St. Barnabas influenced the concerned community to accept him into the Faith. Acts 9:26-27 states, "And when he had come to Jerusalem he attempted to join the disciples; and they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared to them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who spoke to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus." With Paul, St. Barnabas traveled to Antioch, Syria to establish churches throughout the region.
St. Barnabas was part of the team with St. Paul who collected donations from Antioch to help out the Jerusalem Church suffering from a famine affecting the region. St. Mark would join Paul and Barnabas traveling to Cyprus, the land of Barnabas birth, Perga and again Antioch.
The journey was not always easy as they routinely fan into disgruntled angry Jews who often threatened them. Pagans seemed more interested as Barnabas, Paul, and Mark went to Iconium and Lystra. The Missionaries were literally thought to be god and when they set the Pagans straight were taken out of the city and stoned leaving them for dead. Acts 14:8:18 tells the story, "Now at Lystra there was a man sitting, who could not use his feet; he was a cripple from birth, who had never walked. He listened to Paul speaking; and Paul, looking intently at him and seeing that he had faith to be made well, said in a loud voice, "Stand upright on your feet." And he sprang up and walked. And when the crowds saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices, saying in Lycaonian, "The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!" Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul, because he was the chief speaker, they called Hermes. And the priest of Zeus, whose temple was in front of the city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates and wanted to offer sacrifice with the people. But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their garments and rushed out among the multitude, crying, "Men, why are you doing this? We also are men, of like nature with you, and bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them. In past generations he allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways; yet he did not leave himself without witness, for he did good and gave you from heaven rains and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness." With these words they scarcely restrained the people from offering sacrifice to them."
After being stoned by jealous and left for dead, rising from the dust, the Missionaries traveled back to Antioch.
St. Barnabas would continue on with St. Paul back to Jerusalem to participate in the Council of Jerusalem taking place in 49 A.D. The issue at hand was concerning the Law of Moses and the law of grace. Did Gentile converts have to go through the rite of circumcision? That was decided and ruled in favor of St. Barnabas and Paul who rejected that accretion coming from Jewish converts.
The company of St. Barnabas and Paul came to an end when St. Barnabas wanted St. Mark to join them on their next Missionary journey. However, St. Paul opposed the idea because Mark had left them in Perga. As a result, St. Barnabas traveled to Cyprus with Mark. Acts 15:37-40 states the story, "And Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. But Paul thought best not to take with them one who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia, and had not gone with them to the work. And there arose a sharp contention, so that they separated from each other; Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and departed, being commended by the brethren to the grace of the Lord."
Ultimately, St. Barnabas would travel to Alexandra and finally Rome. About 61 A.D., St. Barnabas found his Missionary zeal taking him to Salamis where he was stoned to death by an angry crowd of Jews who were jealous of the many conversions to Christ and His Catholic Church taking place.
From the synagogue, the Jews dragged St. Barnabas through the streets torturing him before the stoning. Mark found the body placing Barnabas in a cave when in 485 A.D. the body was found and exhumed and placed within a monastery in Cyprus.
Jesus call for His people to pick up their cross and follow Him, St. Barnabas lived his faith and died for the love of his King. People founded a diocese where St. Barnabas preached establishing the Cypriote rite Catholic Church. His feast day is celebrated on June 11