“I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that
of the scribes and Pharisees,
you will not enter into the Kingdom of heaven.”
Barnabas, a Jew of Cyprus, comes as close as anyone outside the Twelve to being a full-fledged apostle. He was closely associated with St. Paul (he introduced Paul to Peter and the other apostles) and served as a kind of mediator between the former persecutor and the still suspicious Jewish Christians.
When a Christian community developed at Antioch, Barnabas was sent as the official representative of the Church of Jerusalem to incorporate them into the fold. He and Paul instructed in Antioch for a year, after which they took relief contributions to Jerusalem.
We see in today’s first reading that Paul and Barnabas had become accepted in the community as charismatic leaders who led many to convert to Christianity. The Holy Spirit set them apart for Apostolic work and blessed their efforts with great success.
Above all, these men hungered and thirsted for righteousness, a righteousness that went beyond the mere rules and regulations of the scribes and Pharisees, a righteousness based on a right relationship with God. This is a righteousness that could never be disputed and the relationship could never be broken. Just as they led many people then to that kind of relationship with God, so they call us to follow that same kind of right relationship today.
As we celebrate the Eucharist today, we might follow their call to righteousness by examining our lives. How willing are we to extend ourselves and reach out to others and not be bound by mere human precepts? Blessed are we who live in right relationship with God and others. Blessed are we who follow the example of St. Barnabas and blessed are we who benefit from his intercession.