Today we honor St. Barnabas, the companion of St. Paul on his first missionary journey. His name was actually Joseph, but because of his exceptionally kind nature, the Apostles had nicknamed him Barnabas, which means, “Son of consolation..”
After the Apostles in Jerusalem heard that many Gentiles in Antioch had become interested in Christianity, they decided that Barnabas would be the ideal man for them to to send up there to welcome them.
About ten years before that, the Pharisee Saul had become a Christian, turning to calling himself Paul rather than Saul. He came to Jerusalem to introduce himself to he Apostles, and afterwards, then, he had returned to his father’s house in the Turkish town of Tarsus.
Barnabas had been impressed by Paul back then, so when he was up on his way up to Antioch, he took a side trip to Tarsus, enlisting Paul as his partner in welcoming non-Jews into the Church.
Later, when the two of them set out together on their first missionary journey, they took St Mark along with them; but Mark, still quite young, got homesick, and turned around and went home.
Later, when Barnabas and Paul were setting out on their second journey, Mark apologized, and wanted to come along. When Barnabas wanted to take him, and Paul refused; Paul and Barnabas split up. Paul just didn’t have Barnabas’s easy-going kindness.
A few years ago, our long-time diocesan director of education, Pat Tierney, was retiring. When I asked a number of teachers why they were fond of her, most of them said it was because of her openness to their problems. In the classrooms there are twenty-five students opposed to the one teacher. It is wonderful for her to have someone to listen to their side. Fittingly, Pat retired on the feast of St. Barnabas.