08 Jun Wednesday in the Seventh Week of Easter
Acts 20:28ff. Paul’s final word to church leaders calls them to be shepherds of the church of God.
John 17:11ff. Before leaving them, Jesus prays to the Father, “Sanctify them in the truth.”
More Blessed to Give than to Take
The necessity of prayer and of concern about his disciples is proven beyond all doubt by the fact that Jesus himself lost one of his own followers, Judas Iscariot, “him who was destined to be lost in fulfillment of the Scripture.” The Bible never predicted that a man named Judas Iscariot would betray Jesus and then commit suicide, but it did point out how one’s own friends, for good or evil reasons in their own mind, can turn against God. Jeremiah was told by the Lord: “even your own brothers, the members of your father’s house, will betray you; they have recruited a force against you” (Jer 12:6). Psalm 69:9 cries aloud: “I have become an outcast to my brothers, a stranger to my mother’s sons.”
We cannot take the future for granted. We cannot presume that we ourselves will always make the right judgment or courageously act upon a good decision. We cannot take for granted that others will always be acting sincerely, or if they are sincere, that their judgments are well formed and for our good.
At this point the Scriptures do not advise us to be suspicious of everyone. Nor do they seek to draw us out of the world to some solitary spot. As Jesus prayed: “I do not ask you [heavenly Father] to take them out of the world but to guard them from the evil one.”
Biblical advice moves in another direction, asking us to look toward our own motives, our prayer and our concern for tradition. True, Paul refers to wolves who will distort the truth and says to be on one’s guard against them. Prudence and common sense dictate that we be reasonably cautious and not permit ourselves to be swept along by every wind of an idea! Yet, Paul gives much more attention to other advice.
The elders are to remember Paul’s blood and tears, his manual labor and his tireless preaching of the gospel. Strength of conviction and strong emotional ties are revealed in Paul’s words: “I never ceased warning you individually even to the point of tears.” Paul’s solicitude reached to each person individually and it came from a heart flowing over with tears. Paul then speaks of the word which he preached and to which he is confiding the elders at Ephesus. This gospel came from Paul’s heart, and the words were soaked with Paul’s tears and blood. In a literal sense, he mingled his own tears and blood with those of Jesus, from whose dying side came water and blood (John 19:34). The elders too are to preach with concern for the truth but equally with emotional conviction.
We are to face the future by concern for the poor. After Paul explicitly describes how he worked to support himself and his companions, he did so with “these hands of mine” in an open gesture, he tells the elders to do the same. “I have always pointed out to you that it is by such hard work that you must help the weak.” We are to provide for our future by making it even more insecure; we are to give away what little we possess. Such a generous spirit will insure good judgment on our part and will enable us to form good evaluations about others.
Paul then quotes from the Lord Jesus “who said, ‘There is more happiness in giving than receiving.’ ” This precise statement cannot be found in any of the gospels. It is very surprising that Luke who composed one of the gospels as well as the book of Acts did not include it in his collection of Jesus’ sayings. Paul must be depending upon an oral tradition and we see how true it is that there would not be “room enough in the entire world to hold the books” if all that Jesus said and did were written down (John 21:24-25). We look toward the future, not only aware of the written Scriptures, but also of the many traditions and customs handed down in our Church. We need to be continually aware of the example of the saints and to look to the “cloud of witnesses” who have preceded us (Heb 12:1).
Despite the difficulties and trials ahead of us in the world, we live joyfully. Jesus advises us in his prayer to the Father: “I say all this while I am still in the world that they may share in my joy completely.” Without joy we suspect the worst and are not willing to accept the good in anyone. This joy is deep, it brings tranquility, it bears the fruit of patience. It fits us well to face what the future may bring.
Finally, both Paul and Jesus, each in his own way, state that we have been consecrated by the word or by the truth, by the gospel and by tradition. We are as sacred as the word, we are as much God’s creation as the word that comes from his inspiration. We never doubt our relationship with God. you give power and strength to your people. Let us be your instruments that all the kingdoms of the earth sing your goodness. We look out upon that world and upon our future with your blessing.
First Reading: Acts 20:28-38
Keep watch over yourselves and over all the flock, of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God that he obtained with the blood of his own Son. I know that after I have gone, savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Some even from your own group will come distorting the truth in order to entice the disciples to follow them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to warn everyone with tears. And now I commend you to God and to the message of his grace, a message that is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all who are sanctified. I coveted no one’s silver or gold or clothing. You know for yourselves that I worked with my own hands to support myself and my companions. In all this I have given you an example that by such work we must support the weak, remembering the words of the Lord Jesus, for he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.'”
When he had finished speaking, he knelt down with them all and prayed. There was much weeping among them all; they embraced Paul and kissed him, grieving especially because of what he had said, that they would not see him again. Then they brought him to the ship.
Gospel: John 17:11-19
Jesus said to 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. While I was with them, I protected them in your name that you have given me. I guarded them, and not one of them was lost except the one destined to be lost, so that the scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth.”