Saint Barnabas (d. 61 AD)
Feast Day: June 11
Hope of life is the beginning and end of our faith
Greetings, sons and daughters. In the name of the Lord who loves us, peace be to you.
Because the Lord has granted you an abundance of blessings, I rejoice immeasurably in your blessed and glorious company.
You have received abundantly that indwelling grace which is the Spirit’s gift, and for this reason I hope in my own salvation and I give thanks all the more when I see the bountiful fullness of the Lord’s Spirit pouring over you. I have longed so much for you that when I saw you I was overwhelmed.
I am now convinced and fully aware that I have learned much by speaking with you, for the Lord accompanied me on the road to righteousness, and so I am driven in all ways to love you more than my own life. For surely there is a great store of faith and charity within you because of your hope for life in Christ. Therefore, I have been thinking that if my concern for you inspires me to pass on to you a portion of what I have received, then I will be rewarded for ministering to souls such as yours. Consequently, I am writing you, that you may have perfect knowledge along with your faith.
The Lord has given us these three basic doctrines: hope for eternal life, the beginning and end of our faith; justice, the beginning and end of righteousness; and love, which bears cheerful and joyous witness to the works of righteousness. Now the Lord has made the past and present known to us through his prophets, and he has given us the ability to taste the fruits of the future beforehand. Thus, when we see prophecies fulfilled in their appointed order, we ought to grow more fully and deeply in awe of him. Let me suggest a few things—not as a teacher, but as one of you—which should bring you joy in the present situation.
When evil days are upon us and the worker of malice gains power, we must attend to our own souls and seek to know the ways of the Lord. In those times reverential fear and perseverance will sustain our faith, and we will find need of forbearance and self-restraint as well. Provided that we hold fast to these virtues and look to the Lord, then wisdom, understanding, knowledge and insight will make joyous company with them.
Truly, the Lord has revealed to us through the prophets that he has no need of sacrifice, burnt offerings or oblations. He says in one place: Your endless sacrifices, what are they to me? says the Lord. I have had my fill of holocausts; I do not want the fat of your lambs, nor the blood of your bulls and goats, nor your presence in my sight. Indeed, who has made these demands of you? No more will you trample my courts. Your sacrifices of fine flour are in vain; your incense is loathsome to me; I cannot bear your feasts of the new moon, nor your sabbaths.From a letter attributed to Barnabas
The new law of our Lord
God has abolished the sacrifices of the old law so that the new law of our Lord Jesus Christ, which does not bind by slavish compulsion, might have an offering not made by man. On another occasion he says to them: When I brought your forefathers out of Egypt, I gave them no commands about burnt offerings and sacrifices. I said not a word about them. What I did command was this: Do not contrive any evil against one another, and do not love perjury.
We are not stupid; surely we ought to understand our Father’s kindly purpose in this. He does not want us to go astray as they did, nor to ask how we are to approach him. Here is what he says to us: The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken heart; the fragrance pleasing to the Lord is a soul that gives glory to its Maker. You see, my brothers, we must carefully seek after our own salvation; otherwise, one who is bent on deceiving us will insinuate himself and turn us aside from the path that leads to life.
God spoke of this once again when he said to them: On such a day you are keeping a fast that will not carry your cry to heaven. Is it that sort of fast that I require, a day of mortification like that? But to us he says: Is it not this that I demand of you as a fast—loose the fetters of injustice, untie the knots of all contracts that involve extortion, set free those who have been crushed, tear up every unjust agreement. Share your food with the starving; when you meet a naked man, give him clothing; welcome the homeless into your house.
Accordingly, we must flee from all vanity and show an utter hatred for the deeds of the evil way. Do not turn inward and live only for yourselves as though already assured of salvation; join together rather and seek the common good. For, as Scripture says: Shame on those who are wise in their own judgment and think themselves clever. Rather, let us become spiritual; let us be a perfect dwelling place for God. As far as we can, we should dwell upon the fear of God and strive to keep his commandments, finding our delight in his observances. The Lord will judge the world without respect to persons; everyone will receive his just deserts; if he has been good, his good works will go before him; if wicked, the wages of sin will lie in wait for him. We must never relax our efforts as though our calling were already realized. Never let us fall asleep in a state of sin, lest the prince of wickedness gain power over us and snatch us away from the kingdom of the Lord.
My brothers, grasp this further point: You see the Israelites rejected, even after the many signs and wonders worked among them; let us then see to it that we are not found among those of whom Scripture says: Many are called, but few are chosen.