Homily for the Memorial of St. Barnabas, Apostle

Barnabas had a reputation in the early church for encouraging others. His given name was Josef, but Barnabas was added as a nickname which means “son of encouragement.” We see him engaged in that ministry in today’s text from the Acts. Something powerful and new was stirring within the Christian community in Antioch. In that city, the Gospel had for the first time been preached to pagans as well as Jews and therefore a new kind of Church was emerging there, a group that included members of Jewish and non-Jewish backgrounds.

When Barnabas was sent to Antioch by the Apostles to assess what was happening there, he immediately recognized it as the work of the LORD and sided with this new development. He turned out to be absolutely right; it was indeed the work of the LORD.

God is always at work in new and creative ways among us and it is a great gift to be able to recognize divine inspiration wherever it is to be found and to celebrate and encourage its effects. Barnabas had this gift of noticing where the LORD was at work because, as the narrator says, he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. We need to be open to the Spirit, in order to recognize the work of the Spirit. As Saint Paul says in his first letter to the Corinthians, spiritual things are discerned spiritually.+

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