It is fitting that we celebrate Barnabas, the ‘son of consolation’, or the ‘son of encouragement’, around the time of Pentecost, for the Holy Spirit is revealed as the ‘Consoler’, the 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, was present at the first Council at Jerusalem in 70 A.D., was perhaps a cousin (anepsios) of Saint Mark, 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 Cyprus, where he met his martyrdom after being tortured and dragged by the neck to the place of his witness. What we do know is that we may implore his intercession for all that travails the Church in our own age, and give our bishops, priests and all of us what consolation and encouragement we need to pick up, and keep up, the good fight of the Faith in our own perilous times.
To paraphrase Benjamin Franklin, but in a different context: If we as Catholics don’t all hang together in the truth, we may well each be hanged individually.