St Barnabas has his festal day today and we are reminded in our appointed readings from the Acts of the Apostles of his importance in the early days of the Church. We learn of his gift of property to the Church from Acts 4: 32-end at Morning Prayer, which comes immediately before that strange account of others who made a gift but held part of it back, and suffered death as a result - which always seems to me to be particularly harsh. However, Barnabas’ open-handed offering was without restraint.
It is at Evening Prayer tonight that we shall read the account that links Barnabas with another important action. This is the incident I always find I remember him for, namely the introduction of Paul to the disciples of Jesus. What happened was that Paul, at this stage still called Saul, had escaped from the city of Damascus by being lowered from the walls in a basket, and had made his way to Jerusalem. The reading begins with his arrival in the City of Jerusalem and his desire to join the disciples. Now that presented a problem, as the followers of Jesus were highly suspicious of Saul, and one can understand their anxiety, for they knew what had been going on in terms of Saul’s leading role in the persecution of the early Church.
Barnabas was the one who overcame his fears and recognised in Saul a true follower of Christ and accepted his word. So he took him and introduced him to the others and witnessed to his conversion on the road. By this action Barnabas holds a place amongst the peacemakers of the Church and wider community, and we honour him today.