Today the Church remembers and thanks God for St. Barnabas, Apostle. His name means "son of encouragement, consolation," and the Biblical witness gives ample testimony that he lived up to his name.
We first meet Barnabas in Acts 4 when St. Luke, the author of Acts, says that the early Christians "were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common" (Acts 4:32). In our day, when diversity is trumpeted and even Christians seem to revel in how different they can be from one another, such a comment from St. Luke is quite the encouragement that there can indeed be something better. The unity of Christians in faith and life is indeed an encouragement and consolation.
We can indeed learn a lot from the early Church of Acts, and from Barnabas himself. As we are told of the early Christians selling their own property - perhaps the equivalent of "vacation homes" and extra land - we meet Barnabas in Acts 4:36: "Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles' feet." What a great example of Christian charity! Barnabas saw the opportunity to use his wealth to proclaim Jesus Christ crucified and risen and to extend the kingdom of God. What great encouragement our Lord gives when His people give generously so that the Gospel may be proclaimed and His kingdom promoted.
The next time we encounter this Apostle of encouragement he comes to the rescue, humanly speaking, of the Apostle Paul. Acts 9 gives us the conversion of St. Paul, formerly a persecutor of Christians. With good reason many in the early Church were quite nervous about this man who had previously hunted down and killed their brothers and sisters in the true faith. However, "Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles and declared to them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who spoke to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus" (Acts 9:27). What great encouragement Barnabas gave to St. Paul that someone would defend him and his name as a fellow Christian. What great consolation he gave to the other apostles that St. Paul was "the real deal" for preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
So on this day we thank God for St. Barnabas, for his selfless, generous charity, and for his defense of St. Paul's reputation as a bona fide apostle to proclaim Jesus Christ crucified and risen for sinners. Let us pray that God will lead us also to be generous with our wealth so that the Gospel may be proclaimed and the kingdom of Christ may expand. Let us pray that God will give us the good courage to defend and support our pastors as they proclaim the mercies and life of Jesus Christ our Savior.
Collect of the Day (LSB)
Almighty God, Your faithful servant Barnabas sought not his own renown but gave generously of his life and substance for the encouragement of the apostles and their ministry. Grant that we may follow his example in lives given to charity and the proclamation of the Gospel; through Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Readings for the Day (LSB)
Acts 11:19-30; 13:1-3
For Barnabas we praise You,
Who kept Your law of love
And, leaving earthly treasures,
Sought riches from above.
O Christ, our Lord and Savior,
Let gifts of grace descend,
That Your true consolation
May through the world extend. (LSB 518:17)