Saint Barnabas

11 June

We find the name of St. Barnabas in the Acts of the Apostles and in certain letters of St. Paul. He was born of Jewish parents in Cyprus. He was a Levite, a descendant of the tribe of Levi, one of the twelve tribes of Israel and as such he had the privilege of carrying out ritual services in the Temple. His real name was Joseph but the Apostles named him Barnabas, meaning ‘Son of Encouragement’ because of his personality.

It is believed that he became a Christian after Pentecost. He sold his property and gave the proceeds to the early Christian Community. He became known as the preacher of the Good News and became regarded as  one of the inner group of the Apostles. When St. Paul (then known as Saul) visited Jerusalem after his conversion, the Apostles were reluctant to believe his honest conversion and accept him. It was Barnabas who stood up for him with Peter and James. Eventually Paul returned to Tarsus, his hometown, so Barnabas lost contact with him.

After the martyrdom of St.Stephen many of the disciples left Jerusalem and were dispersed in surrounding countries. The Apostles got to know that in Antioch, a number of these disciples were evangelising and welcoming Gentile converts. Barnabas was sent there to assess the situation. When he saw that in Antioch there was a great field for evangelising the Gentiles, he sought out Paul from Tarsus and together they started their mission in Antioch, staying there for a year. This early Christian Community continued to grow in number and it was here that the followers of  Barnabas and Paul, because of their belief in Jesus Christ started to be identified as ‘Christians’.

During this time a famine broke out in Jerusalem, so Barnabas and Paul returned to Jerusalem with money offerings donated by the Antioch Christian Community. On returning to Antioch, they were accompanied by Mark (later the Evangelist) who was the cousin or nephew of Barnabas.

The three of them set out on missionary journeys first to Cyprus and then to Asia Minor. At one point, however, for some reason Mark left them and returned to Jerusalem. Barnabas and Paul continued to preach both to Jews and Gentiles, spreading the Good News that God showed His love for us in Jesus, His own Son made Man. This was not an easy task. They met with opposition and even violent persecution, even risking their lives.

At one point, Barnabas and Paul travelled to Jerusalem to resolve an issue brought up by some Jews that the Gentile converts had to adopt Mosaic Law before being accepted as Christians. Barnabas and Paul had a different view, stating that the Gentiles had a right to be accepted as Christians without any binding to Mosaic Law. Barnabas, together with Paul were present at the Council of Jerusalem where their work was approved and a decision was taken in their favour.

After returning to Antioch, they decided to revisit the places where they had previously established Christian Communities. Barnabas wanted to take Mark once again, but Paul objected because he felt that Mark was not dependable.

Barnabas and Paul parted ways. Barnabas went to Cyprus taking Mark with him while Paul, taking Silas with him, revisited the Churches in Asia minor. Little is known about Barnabas after this episode. It is believed that he continued with his apostolic work in Cyprus where eventually he suffered martyrdom.

At one point, Paul and Barnabas, did not agree about whether Mark should continue to accompany them and they parted ways. However, in his letters Paul did mention the good qualities of Barnabas and even asked for Mark to join him in Rome.

Seek the opportunity when the occasion arises to talk to the children: Having friends does not mean that you will never disagree or that you will never fight.

Explore with them the reasons that led to the disagreement with a friend:

Listen attentively with empathy – what made them upset, angry, hurt. (We need to remember that what appears to us as a triviality, to a child it could mean ’the end of the world’.)

Discuss whether:

  • it is worth losing a friend and what they would like to do
  • if they want to reach out and how find ways to let the other child share how he/she felt
  • explore any words actions that they feel they should apologize for

(They might suggest that the other person needs to apologize! Accept that. Encourage them to make the first step)

St Barnabas is still remembered for his generosity when he donated his own possessions to the Early Church and coming to the aid for the people of Jerusalem suffering famine..

Children tend to be self-involved. This trait continues to be re-enforced by a society that seems to dictate that amassing goods is what makes us happy. As parents and carers it is beneficial for the children’s development to instill in them the value of generosity by making them aware of needs beyond their own, so that as they grow they would become more responsive to the needs of others. Explain to them that being generous does not only mean donating money or gifts. It involves also sharing, giving attention, helping out. It means making a ‘positive difference’ for somebody else! Talk to them about how they can do this.

Praise the children when you see them being generous. Acknowledge their positive impulse of generosity : offering to help, sharing toys or i-pad, etc.

Organize three jars labelled Spend, Save, Give. Encourage them to split their pocket money accordingly. Then let them decide what they would like to do with the money collected in the jar ‘Give’. You might decide to do this as a family activity.

Consider sponsoring a child. Display his/her photo~ keep a correspondence. This will help them become aware of life in developing countries.

Prepare a poster ‘GOD LOVES A CHEERFUL GIVER’  ( 2 Cor.9,7) Let The children decorate it!

Family Prayer Time

  • Lead children in prayer around the themes:
  • God is generous with us.
  • Thank God for three beautiful things today>
  • Ask God and any member of the family for forgiveness if we have not been ready to forgive and forget our hurts.
  • Ask God to help us make the first move to reconcile with friends or members of the family.

Pray/Sing ‘The Our Father’ ( after explaining ‘forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us’)

How to use this space

God speaks to us in many ways, including through the Saints of the Church. Here you will find useful background and activities to better understand the holy life, helping you to connect the saints to daily life in a meaningful way.