Champion of Paul
One of the best-loved characteristics of St. Barnabas is his gift of drawing out the God-given potential in others. Named Joseph at birth, the Levite from Cyprus became known as “Barnabas,” which means “son of encouragement” or “son of consolation” (Acts 4:36).
When the newly converted Paul was still distrusted by the disciples, Barnabas recognized the miracle of grace in their former enemy and vouched for him.
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. He moved about freely with them in Jerusalem, and spoke out boldly in the name of the Lord. He also spoke and debated with the Hellenists, but they tried to kill him. And when the brothers learned of this, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him on his way to Tarsus.Acts 9:26-30
The approval of Barnabas, one of the most respected leaders of the early church, eased Paul into his mission to the Gentiles. Under the tutelage of Barnabas, Paul’s former reputation as a persecutor of the saints gradually transformed into one of eminence. As Paul’s stature as an apostle grew, Barnabas humbly deferred to his confrere’s leadership.
A dispute over John Mark, however, caused Paul and Barnabas to part ways at Antioch. Barnabas wanted to take his cousin, John Mark, on their next apostolic journey, but Paul refused to grant the young man a second chance after he had deserted them in Pamphylia (Acts 13:13).
After some time, Paul said to Barnabas, “Come, let us make a return visit to see how the brothers are getting on in all the cities where we proclaimed the word of the Lord.” Barnabas wanted to take with them also John, who was called Mark, but Paul insisted that they should not take with them someone who had deserted them at Pamphylia and who had not continued with them in their work. So sharp was their disagreement that they separated. Barnabas took Mark and sailed to Cyprus. But Paul chose Silas and departed after being commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord.Acts 15:36-40
Spiritual Father of John Mark
Once again, Barnabas, the “son of encouragement,” took a novice under his wing and nurtured his fledgling vocation. Barnabas formed his cousin so well that Paul, in his Letter to the Colossians, warmly commends John Mark to the community: “if he comes to you, receive him” (Colossians 4:10). Mark is named among the few who are true “co-workers for the kingdom of God” and who bring Paul “solace” (Colossians 4:11).
In his Second Letter to Timothy, an imprisoned Paul, accompanied only by his beloved friend Luke, asks for Mark: “Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is helpful to me in the ministry” (2 Timothy 4:11).
“A Good Man”
Saint Luke, chronicler of the Acts of the Apostles, remembers Barnabas as a friend who “rejoiced and encouraged them all to remain faithful to the Lord in firmness of heart, for he was a good man, filled with the Holy Spirit and faith” (Acts 11:23-24).
Spirit-filled Barnabas vouched for Paul,
Mentored John Mark and nurtured his call.