St. Barnabas

s-barnabas.png

 

SON OF ENCOuragement 

St. Barnabas is first mentioned in the Holy Book of Acts. Born as Joseph or Joses, it was the disciples who gave him the name Barnabas which means “son of encouragement” or “son of consolation” (Acts 4:36). This name was indeed a proper name for someone who lived to encourage those whom others feared or rejected.

They who destroyed this temple shall themselves build it. That is happening now. For owing to the war it was destroyed by the enemy; at present even the servants of the enemy will build it up again.

Born in Cyprus in the year 1 A.D, St. Barnabas was a Jew from the tribe of Levi. St. Clement of Alexandria and the historian Eusabius recorded that he was one of the seventy apostles our Lord Jesus Christ commissioned to preach (Lk 10:1). We do not know exactly why the apostles gave him the name Barnabas but by following his life and accomplishments we can see clearly how he rightly deserved this name for he was a great encourager to many who came in his path.

The Holy Book of Acts describes St. Barnabas: “For he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith” (Acts 11:24). St. Barnabas was a man with a good heart and the mind of Christ was implanted in him. He was kind, truly a man of God and being full of the Holy Spirit he produced the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Gal 5:22-23). He was full of the Christian faith himself, and therefore desired to spread it among others.

Ministry

The first deed we learn about St. Barnabas is that he was among those who sold their property and laid all its proceeds at the feet of the apostles for the support of the needy of the Jerusalem Church: “And Joses, who was also named Barnabas by the apostles (which is translated Son of Encouragement), a Levite of the country of Cyprus, having land, sold it, and brought the money and laid it at the apostles feet” (Acts 4:36-37). St. Barnabas’s generosity and charitable deeds contrasted with the deceiving actions of Ananias and Sapphira mentioned in the Holy Book of Acts 5.

We encounter St. Barnabas again a few years later, after the conversion of Saul. Knowing of Saul’s reputation, his persecution of the Church in Jerusalem and his presence at the stoning of St. Stephen, the disciples were distrustful and justifiably fearful of him on his return to Jerusalem three years after his conversion. When Saul had come to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples but they were all afraid of him, and did not believe that he was a disciple (Acts 9:26). But while all the others doubted, St. Barnabas had faith in this new convert and despite the general fear he decided to encourage Saul, accept him and introduce him to the apostles. Not only did he bring him to the apostles but he also presented his case defending him and urging them to accept him. He declared to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus (Acts 9:27). Due to the encouragement of St. Barnabas, Saul joined the apostles and became accepted by the Church in Jerusalem.

When news came to the apostles in Jerusalem that men from Cyprus and Cyrene preached to the Hellenists in Antioch, “And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed and turned to the Lord” (Acts 11:20), they decided to send one of them immediately. St. Barnabas, being a Levite from the Gentile island of Cyprus, was chosen and sent by the apostles to Antioch to strengthen the work there. Arriving and seeing the labor and the grace of God, St. Barnabas the Encourager took it upon himself to encourage others in this city and expand the ministry. “When he came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad, and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord” (Acts 11:23). Feeling the need for help in his ministry at Antioch and because of the nature of the city, St. Barnabas thought of Saul being like himself a Jew who grew up in the Gentile world and understood the Gentiles. St. Barnabas traveled without delay to the distant city of Tarsus to find Saul. He brought him back to Antioch with him and began the work of preaching (Acts 11:25). This team of Barnabas and Saul was very successful and fruitful. They worked together for a whole year in this city during which time the Church was further strengthened; “So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch” (Acts 11:26). By the order in which St. Luke gives his account, Barnabas and Saul indicates the pre-eminence of St. Barnabas in this mission.

About this time prophets came to Antioch and predicted a great famine in Jerusalem (Acts 11:28). The Christians of Judea were seemingly especially affected, so the believers at Antioch gathered a contribution and it was again the team of Barnabas and Saul who carried the relief funds from Antioch to Jerusalem. Then the disciples, each according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea. This they also did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul (Acts 11:29-30). Once their mission was accomplished, Barnabas and Saul returned to Antioch and brought with them the cousin of St. Barnabas (Col 4:10), St. John Mark the Evangelist (Acts 12:25).

While still in Antioch, “As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, 'Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.' Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away” (Acts 13:2-3), by Divine direction, they were consecrated as missionaries, and sent forth on what is usually known as St. Paul’s 1st Missionary Journey. St. Mark began this journey with them. The journey took them to Seleucia and from there they sailed to the island of Cyprus. While on that island, two major changes occurred. Saul was then called Paul and St. Barnabas gradually faded away as the leadership role had changed from St. Barnabas to St. Paul (Acts 13:9). They continued their journey to Salamis, to Paphos then to Perga where St. Mark for some reason left them to go to his home at Jerusalem. St. Paul and St. Barnabas continued their journey and finally ended up in Antioch of Syria.

When St. Paul planned his second missionary journey of the churches of Asia Minor, St. Barnabas agreed to accompany him (Acts 15:36). But when St. Barnabas suggested taking St. Mark with them, St. Paul, remembering St. Mark’s failure to continue the first journey with them, disagreed. A contention arose between them resulting in the separation of the two missionaries. St. Barnabas took St. Mark with him and embarked for Cyprus. In this decision St. Barnabas actually was once again being the encourager by doing what he did before for St. Paul; he was a sponsor and mentor for a promising servant of the Lord.

At this point, the Holy Book of Acts ends the story of St. Barnabas, but he is mentioned several times in St. Paul’s writings (1 Cor 9:6; Gal 2:1,9,13; Col 4:10). Tradition tells us that he was stoned to death in 61 A.D. in Cyprus and that at the time of his death he was carrying a copy of the Gospel of Saint Matthew that he had copied by hand.

May our Lord Jesus Christ grants us to be like St. Barnabas- good servants, full of the Holy Spirit, to see the best in people and be encouraging of all in order to bring glory to His name.


St. Susanna

st-susanna.png

HER UPBRINGING

The story of Susanna begins with a brief description of her family. Susanna was the daughter of Hilkiah who was described as a God-fearing man (Daniel 13:2, NAB). Her parents were both just and were careful to teach their daughter the Law of Moses. They preserved her chastity given they were living in the land of captivity and were surrounded with ungodly practices. Susanna's parents realized the importance of raising their daughter in the way of the Lord, and took care not only to teach her the law, but her parents also lived a just life (Daniel 13:3, NAB) which was an example for Susanna to live by. For in like manner, Susanna lived in righteousness and was a living example to her household.

Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel—rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God. For in this manner, in former times, the holy women who trusted in God also adorned themselves, being submissive to their own husbands.

Susanna was careful throughout her life not to show herself in public (Daniel 13:7, NAB), she was decent and careful in her dress and behavior as reflected in the teachings of St. Peter: "Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel—rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God. For in this manner, in former times, the holy women who trusted in God also adorned themselves, being submissive to their own husbands" (1 Peter 3:3-5).

As such, she took care not to be a stumbling block to others around her. She was responsible and consciously aware of those around her. In gracefulness she retained honor (Proverbs 11:16), and this honor became that of her husband, Joakim, who was described as the most honorable of all the Jews (Daniel 13:4, NAB). We see here the compatibility of both husband and wife, not so much of earthly similarity, but a compatibility based on the heavenly qualities. More so, Joakim was attracted to Hilkiah and his family to take a daughter for himself which was pure and righteous. Here we see that Hilkiah took care to ensure that his daughter was given to an honorable man, such that her companion would be compatible, just as Hilkiah was with his wife. The married life of Susanna was shown to be a reflection of her upbringing in dealing with her own children, husband, and throughout the hardship she was to experience.

FAMILY AND HUSBAND

Susanna was married to Joakim for several years and was fruitful in his house. In the manner of her parents, her home was supportive in nature as "she watches over the ways of her household" (Proverbs 31:27) and was a living example to her children and those around her. She looked well to the ways of her household. Her lifestyle was consistent with modesty and purity as when she was accused of adultery, it was written: "there had never been anything of this kind said about Susanna" (Daniel 13:27, NAB). This must be considered in the circumstances surrounding Susanna and her family: her faith was strong in the land of captivity, surrounded with evil and immorality, yet she sheltered herself and her children in her home and did not expose herself to any unrighteousness.

Susanna's husband and parents never wavered in their support or in their confidence in her, regardless of the blame that was set upon her. They were confident and trusted her upbringing and their own parenting. When she was accused of adultery (worthy of death), they accompanied her to her judgement out of their love and trust regardless of the shame people looked upon them. In this we see that Susanna surrounded herself with the people of God, who she influenced and who in turn also influenced her. This was true love, which even in the face of tribulation and death "she arrived with her parents, and sons, and all her relatives" (Daniel 13:30, NAB).

HER PURITY

Susanna was an example of Joseph the righteous, who in the like manner resisted Potipher’s wife's temptation and saw it better to please God rather than men. During her trial, Susanna, arrived covering her face from the people, possibly not from shame, as she knew in her heart she was innocent, but because of her modesty. It is remarkable how she maintained her modesty and upheld her morals even though she was walking through the fire of her tribulation. During her trial, Susanna did not argue with her accusers, who bore false witness against her, but rather, she said it was better for herself to plea before God rather than before men. She did not seek protection from her father or husband, but instead she cried to the Lord in her defense and saw it better to empty herself before the Lord.

Susanna's innocence was a stamp on her conduct and lifestyle before all people, who through witnessing her trial and outcome may have repented from their ways. In like manner, we too must live a life which is conducive of purity and righteousness to thereby set an example to our children and those around us. May we learn the life of purity and take Susanna as a righteous example and model to which we should emulate in our married lives such as to bring ourselves and those around us to the glory of God, for as our Savior teaches: "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:16).