Memorial of Saint Barnabas, Apostle
“For he was a good man, filled with the Holy Spirit and with faith.” It is not often that the New Testament gives us such a pithy description of an individual, one that would make a fitting epitaph. It seems to me particularly appropriate that this same passage tells us that the disciples were first called Christians at Antioch, for what characteristics are more fitting for Christians than to be good, to be filled with the Holy Spirit and with faith?
“For he was a good man, filled with the Holy Spirit and with faith.” The particular goodness of Barnabas merits closer attention. He had been sent to Antioch from Jerusalem, the center of “Jewish Christianity,” where no few among the early believers opposed the conversion of the Gentiles unless they were also made to observe the Mosaic law. Barnabas has no such reaction; instead, he rejoices at the grace of God and encourages everyone to remain faithful. Joy, encouragement, faith: surely these are marks of a good man filled with the Holy Spirit.
“For he was a good man, filled with the Holy Spirit and with faith.” Barnabas learns that the reward of a good man is not to have it easy or to be spoken well of by all. Instead, his goodness makes him suited for a mission for which few others are suited. The Holy Spirit calls Paul and Barnabas for the mission to the Gentiles, which will put them in harm’s way, subject them to rejection, beatings, imprisonment, shipwreck, and persecutions of every sort. But through these things, by the power of the Holy Spirit and faith, an ordinary man becomes a light to the nations.