Without St. Barnabas, the evangelist St. Paul may not have been accepted by the Church. The Jerusalem Christians could not believe that Paul, who persecuted them relentlessly before his conversion, was truly a disciple (Acts 9:26). "Then Barnabas took [Paul] in charge and introduced him to the apostles. He explained to them how on his journey Saul had seen the Lord, Who had conversed with him, and how Saul had been speaking out fearlessly in the name of Jesus in Damascus" (Acts 9:27). They couldn't believe Paul, but they could believe Barnabas.
Barnabas was not only an encourager (see Acts 4:36; 11:23); he was also an enabler. Today, it's generally not considered a compliment if you enable someone. For example, people can enable a drug addict by helping them while overlooking the root of their problem. However, Barnabas enabled Paul to be accepted by the Jewish disciples. He enabled the Antioch Christians to be nourished with God's Word by searching out Paul and bringing him to Antioch to help instruct the new Greek Christians for a year (Acts 11:25ff).
Barnabas enabled the first Christian mission by serving as the leader of the first mission, as evidenced by his name being listed before that of Paul (Acts 13:2, 7). Yet when he saw that the Spirit was working powerfully through Paul, Barnabas enabled Paul to lead the mission by yielding to the Spirit and allowing Paul to act as the main speaker (Acts 13:10, 13, 16, 43, 46). Eventually St. Barnabas was martyred in his homeland of Cyprus. Then the Lord enabled Barnabas to enter His heavenly home and "experience [His] love which surpasses all knowledge" (Eph 3:19). Let us strive to do the same.
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†Most Reverend Joseph R. Binzer, Auxiliary Bishop, Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, January 20, 2016.