St Barnabas, the Son of Encouragement, gets something of a raw deal from the Church. His feast is kept as a memoria rather than a festum, and his (presumed) mortal remains are kept in a basilica in northern Cyprus* (looked after by a Muslim caretaker) rather than in some grand church in Rome. No doubt it is my quirky sense of humour, but that strikes me as being very fitting for someone who gives encouragement. To encourage another, we have to have a very just (= modest) opinion of ourselves and a very generous (= hopeful) opinion of the other. The liturgical reticence of today’s commemoration reminds us that what attracts society’s notice may not be what attracts God’s, that our human values are not always the same as his. Barnabas was to be eclipsed by his disciple, Paul; and the Church remembers the dispute between them chiefly because Paul won his point; but I have a suspicion that in the court of heaven, Barnabas occupies a very high place from which he continues to encourage us still.
* The basilica in Cyprus is very beautiful, with hundreds of magnificent icons. It is certainly not a ‘second-best’ resting-place; my point is that in Rome St Barnabas is hardly mentioned, unlike the other figures of Apostolic times.