07 Jun Tuesday in the Seventh Week of Easter
Acts 20:17ff. Paul’s inspiring testament, to the church leaders of the Asia region, on his way to Jerusalem.
John 17:1ff. The high priestly prayer of Jesus, at the Last Supper, for those he must leave behind in this world.
Famous Last Words
Both Paul and Jesus indicate that an important phase of their ministry has been completed: Paul must proceed to Jerusalem and if he survives the persecutions in that city, he hopes to sail westward to Rome and then to Spain; Jesus declares that he has finished the work given to him by the heavenly Father and now asks: “Do you now, Father, give me glory at your side?” Paul’s words take the form of a final address in which he sums up the duties of pastors and religious leaders. Jesus, on the other hand, prays aloud and offers us one of those rare insights. We are told the content of his prayer to the Father.
Whether in sermon or in prayer, each looks to the future with calm faith and free conscience. Both Paul and Jesus confess from their heart that they have done their very best. Paul states plainly to the elders: “You know how I lived among you from the first day I set foot in the province of Asia, how I served the Lord with humility through the sorrows and trials that came my way from the plottings” of some people. As Jesus prays that the Father give him glory at his side, he adds: “These men you gave me were yours; they have kept your word. I have made your name known to them.”
Paul adds many instructions which would be out of place in a prayer that Jesus spoke. We detect a strong confidence and self-assurance. His entire life has been an open book, for he lived, preached and made a secular living to support himself, all in a very visible way. He states so easily what others would be forced to admit: “I put no value on my life if only I can finish my race and complete the service to which I have been assigned by the Lord Jesus.” For this reason a stern warning follows: “Therefore I solemnly declare this day that I take the blame for no man’s conscience for I have never shrunk from announcing to you God’s design in its entirety.” Paul’s church has been more than adequately instructed: “Never did I shrink from telling you what was for your own good, or from teaching you in public or in private.”
Jesus’ self-confidence appears much more indirectly: “you have given him [that is, the Son, Jesus himself] authority over all humankind, that he may bestow eternal life on those you gave him.” Again, Jesus declares almost by way of gratitude to the Father for the privilege confided to him: “I entrusted to them the message you entrusted to me, and they received it.”
Along with this calm interior strength, manifested clearly though differently by Paul and Jesus, each faces a future of uncertainty. Paul does not know the exact details, only that chains and hardships await him at Jerusalem. He admits that he will not see the Ephesians again. According to some scholars, Paul did return to this area. In that case his statement here must be modified with some clause as “insofar as I see the situation right now.” Jesus, for his part, prays for his disciples. Their future is uncertain because of the dangers and tensions, the demands and disappointments of the apostolate. “For these I pray … I am in the world no more, but these are in the world as I come to you.” Jesus could not, or at least did not predict exactly what lies ahead; he would only pray that his followers remain faithful to his person and to his teaching.
Interior strength and a clear conscience do not remove the holy fear and healthy caution about the future. Our previous experience of God does not give us the right or privilege to predict the future, much less to tell God what it ought to be. We are not in a position to quote the Scriptures back to God and insist on the future outcome of our lives! Like Paul, we must be willing to accept the chains and hardships; like Jesus we must pray for enlightenment and strength. We continue to live “in the world,” as Jesus said in prayer about his followers. To live in the world means that we must continue to interact with many unpredictable uncertainties, with change of mood and ideas on the part of others.
Yet, we can face the future calmly. For when we finish the work given to us by the Father, God will give us glory at his side.
First Reading: Acts 20:17-27
From Miletus he sent a message to Ephesus, asking the elders of the church to meet him. When they came to him, he said to them: “You yourselves know how I lived among you the entire time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, serving the Lord with all humility and with tears, enduring the trials that came to me through the plots of the Jews. I did not shrink from doing anything helpful, proclaiming the message to you and teaching you publicly and from house to house, as I testified to both Jews and Greeks about repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus. And now, as a captive to the Spirit, I am on my way to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and persecutions are waiting for me. But I do not count my life of any value to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the good news of God’s grace.
“And now I know that none of you, among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom, will ever see my face again. Therefore I declare to you this day that I am not responsible for the blood of any of you, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God.
Gospel: John 17:1-11
After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.
“I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.