We refer to Paul as the Apostle to the Gentiles, but we forget that Paul did not do it alone. Several people traveled with Paul, and perhaps the one whom we should always remember is Barnabas whose feast day we celebrate today.
We are all the products of our culture, and perhaps what set Barnabas apart was the place of his birth and death, Cyprus. Like all of the apostles Barnabas was a Jew, but he was a Jew from Cyprus. What is so special about Cyprus? It s location. According to acheoolgy, humans had lived on Cyprus since at least 10,000 BC and because of the islands strategic location, every great empire in western history at some point conquered it Persians, Egyptians, Greeks Romans, the Ottoman Empire, and the British to names a few. Each leaving some bit of their culture as they were displaced by the next.
By the time of Barnabas, it would have been a predominantly Greek culture even though under the Roman Republic since 58 BC. As a Cypriot and a Jew Barnabas would have been perfectly prepared to be able to proclaim the gospel in a way that it could be understood and accepted by non-Jews from a variety of cultures. He was in that sense the perfect companion to travel with Paul as Christian took shape as a truly catholic religion.
As we look at the story of Barnabas we see once again how God works, how God's plan stretches out over years and lifetimes. From his birth, Barnabas was prepared for his role in the world and in the Church. But the same can be said of every one of us. God does not create a person without a purpose. If we exist, we exist for a reason. We are in someway a piece of the puzzle, a picture that only God can see.
Today in our prayer we turn to St. Barnabas, now living in heaven with all the apostles, and ask his intercession, that each of us may understand our unique mission in the world.