In the first reading the Apostles in Jerusalem heard that non-Jews up in Antioch were asking to be accepted as Christians. This was completely unexpected, since it had only been Jews who had followed Christ. It was like it would be for us if we heard that a group of Protestants while remaining Protestants had asked to join the Knights of Columbus.
They chose St. Mark’s uncle Barnabas to go up and help those people to become Christians. An earlier chapter in the Acts of the Apostles that had mentioned Barnabas told us that his real name was Joseph. He was such an affirming man that Barnabas, “Son of Encouragement,” was give t him as a nickname. Evidently they chose Barnabas to deal with those outsiders knowing that his non-demanding ways would put the converts at ease.
They were right in that. Today’s passage tells us that on meeting those Gentiles Barnabas had “encouraged them all.” (The origin of our word encourage is interesting: it means to put heart in someone who is uncertain.)
Having sized up the task he was faced with, Barnabas saw the need of a strong partner, and that need sent him up to the town of Tarsus where Saul had retired to meditate on the Faith. (In his Letter to the Galatians Paul wrote that when Barnabas sought him out fourteen years had elapsed since Christ had appeared to him on the road to Damascus.)
No one would have guessed that this unlikely pair would have come together to bring the Faith to the Gentile world.