The early Christians were understandably suspicious of newly-Christian Saul/Paul who, right up until his singular conversion, had been actively handing them over to death and imprisonment. (See Acts 8:3.) But it was the Saint whose feast we celebrate today: Saint Barnabas who heard about Saint Paul, went to Tarsus, and brought him back to Antioch. He befriended him, vouched for him, and spent a whole year with him there, both teaching him and learning from him.
Barnabas recognized the greatness in Paul that would forever shape the Church. Through patient friendship he helped draw it out, and then set off with him to bring it to the world. They embarked together on the first missionary journey. (See Acts 13:1-4.) They brought with them Barnabas’ young cousin, John Mark, who then ditched them halfway through the difficult trip and hightailed it for home.
As Paul and Barnabas were preparing for a second missionary journey, Barnabas again wanted to bring John Mark, and Paul was like, “Dude, no way! Remember how he totally ditched us?!” (I’m paraphrasing here, see Acts 15:37-40.) But just as Barnabas had spotted the greatness in Paul when no one else could, he sensed the greatness in John Mark when Paul didn’t. So they decided that Paul would go one way with Silas, and Barnabas and John Mark would go the other.
Paul would continue to inform and lead the new Church . . . and so would John Mark. In Paul’s final letter, he asks Timothy to send John Mark to him, “for he is helpful to me in the ministry” (2 Timothy 4:11). In fact, John Mark is traditionally thought to be the author of the Gospel of Mark.
It’s all a beautiful lesson in friendship and patience and willfully seeing the potential for good in those around us, even when they have disappointed us and let us down. So if friends, family, or coworkers are being a trial today, Saint Barnabas understands, and wants to help.
Need five ways to increase your patience? This priest has some good ideas.
Kendra Tierney is a forty-two-year-old mother of nine and wife of one living in and working on a big old fixer-upper house in Los Angeles. She's a homeschooler and a regular schooler and is relishing the new freedom from carpooling that's come with a sixteen-year-old in the house. Her newest book, The Catholic All Year Compendium: Liturgical Living for Real Life, is here. You can find her first book, A Little Book About Confession, here, her blog here, and her word art here.