It is fitting that we celebrate the Apostle Barnabas, the ‘son of consolation’, or the ‘son of encouragement’, in this season of the Holy Spirit. For the Hebraic terminus of his name, the navi (consolation, or even prophet) after the bar (son) is one of the titles of the Third Person of the Trinity, the consoler, advocate and guide.
Indeed, for Barnabas is described in today’s readings from Acts (11:26) as a ‘good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith’. He was an invaluable companion of Saint Paul’s, accompanying him on a number of his apostolic journeys, present at the first Council at Jerusalem in 70 A.D., and is even counted amongst the early apostles, as those ‘sent’ by the Lord to convert the first wave of Jews and Gentiles to the ‘Way’ of Christianity.
Beyond these few references, we don’t know all that much for certain about Barnabas. Tertullian claims him as the author of the letter to the Hebrews, and extra-canonical writings recount his preaching the faith in Syria, where he met his martyrdom. What we do know is that we may implore his intercession for all that travails the Church in our own age, and give us what consolation and encouragement we need to keep up the good fight of the Faith.
As Saint Paul encourages us in his letter to the Thessalonians:
For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first; then we who are alive, who are left, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.
We are on a pilgrimage to heaven together, and let us, indeed, console and strengthen one another on the way.
Saint Barnabas, ora pro nobis!