Although not one of the original twelve apostles, Barnabas is called an apostle by St. Luke in his Acts of the Apostles. This is because, like Paul the apostle, Barnabas received a special mission from God. He was a Jew born on the island of Cyprus. His name was Joseph, but the apostles changed it to Barnabas. This name means "son of consolation."
As soon as he became a Christian, St. Barnabas sold all he owned and gave the money to the apostles. He was a good, kind-hearted man. He was full of enthusiasm to share his belief in and love for Jesus. He was sent to the city of Antioch to preach the Gospel. Antioch was the third largest city in the Roman Empire. Here is where the followers of Jesus were first called Christians. Barnabas realized that he needed help. He thought of Paul of Tarsus. He believed that Paul's conversion had been real. It was Barnabas who convinced St. Peter and the Christian community. He asked Paul to come and work with him. Barnabas was a humble person, and was not afraid of sharing the responsibility and the power. He knew that Paul, too, had a great gift to give and he wanted him to have the chance.
Sometime later, the Holy Spirit chose Paul and Barnabas for a special assignment. Not long afterward, the two apostles set off on a daring missionary journey. They had many sufferings to bear and often risked their lives. Despite the hardships, their preaching won many people to Jesus and his Church.
Later St. Barnabas went on another missionary journey, this time with his relative, John Mark. They went to Barnabas' own country of Cyprus. So many people became believers through his preaching that Barnabas is called the apostle of Cyprus. It is commonly believed that this great saint was stoned to death in the year 61.
In prayer today, we can ask the grace to "kindle in us the flame of love by which St. Barnabas brought the light of the gospel to the nations."