Thus Joseph, also named by the apostles Barnabas (which is translated “son of encouragement”), a Levite, a Cypriot by birth, sold a piece of property that he owned, then brought the money and put it at the feet of the apostles. ―Acts 4:36–37
Barnabas’s actual name was Joseph, but evidently he was blessed with a positive demeanor, so the apostles decided to call him Barnabas, which means “son of encouragement.” Barnabas was actually the first believer in Jerusalem to welcome the once-terrifying Saul (later to be known as Paul). He felt convinced that Saul had had a true conversion and that his vicious persecutions had ended. Saul may never have been accepted by the apostles were it not for Barnabas.
Barnabas greatly impacted making the new Faith universal or “catholic.” The earliest followers were predominantly Jewish. They considered their belief in Christ to be an extension of Judaism, that Jesus had come for Jews alone, and that Gentiles were more or less left out of the picture. When word got to Jerusalem that some Greek Gentiles in Antioch were being taught about Jesus, they decided to send over their “son of encouragement,” Barnabas, to investigate.
When Barnabas arrived in Antioch, he was stunned and overjoyed at the grace of God he found within the hearts of these Gentiles. It was at this point that Barnabas began to understand that Jesus had come for all, not just for Jews. He heartily encouraged these Gentiles to continue their devotion to Christ. Saul soon joined Barnabas in Antioch, and the two men spent a year working with these inspiring Gentile converts. It was during this time that the term Christian began to be used.
Later on, Barnabas traveled with Paul on his first missionary journey and then attended the Council of Jerusalem. There, he encouraged the leaders of the early Church to relax the strict Mosaic Law for the many devoted Gentile converts. Soon after, Barnabas journeyed with his cousin, John Mark (author of the second Gospel) to Cyprus for more evangelizing.
Although Barnabas is rarely mentioned after this, there is no doubt that his “acts of encouragement” continued, favorably impacting Christianity. St. Barnabas’s memorial is June 11 and he is the patron saint of peacemaking and hailstorms.
Praying for Encouragement - Nine Days with St. Barnabas
Knitting together nine days of biblical passages can help you to better know and understand this “son of encouragement.” If you need a dose of hope in your life, prayerfully read one passage a day below and ask St. Barnabas to pray for your intentions. (Of course, if inspiration hits you, you can do this nine days of prayer in in Mother Teresa's “Flying Novena” style by reading all nine passages in one sitting.)
- Day 1 - Acts 4:36–37
- Day 2 - Acts 9:26–27
- Day 3 - Acts 11:19–26
- Day 4 - Acts 12:25
- Day 5 - Acts 13:1–15, 46
- Day 6 - Acts 14:8–20
- Day 7 - Acts 15:2, 12, 22, 25, 35
- Day 8 - Acts 15:36–40
- Day 9 - Colossians 4:10