09 Jun Thursday in the Seventh Week of Easter
Acts 22:30ff. Paul is cross-examined by the Jewish Council, in Jerusalem.
John 17:20ff. The final part of Jesus’ high-priestly prayer
Making God Known
Jesus signals unity as the most characteristic mark of his disciples, the sign and the goal of true faith, when he prayed: “that they may be one in us, that the world may believe that you sent me.” Paul of Tarsus appears in today’s reading, yet not as a messenger of peace and unity. He deliberately stirred a discussion, which he knew would turn into a shouting match and then into physical abuse. He got the Sadducees pitted against the Pharisees on the subject of the resurrection from the dead. Paul aligned himself with the Pharisees (23:6).
Paul wrote eloquently about peace and unity in 1 Corinthians 11-13 and in Ephesians 4. He was not always stirring up trouble. Jesus for his part was not always a messenger of peace. Jesus had put this question before his disciples: “Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? I assure you, the contrary is true; I have come for division. From now on, a household of five will be divided three against two and two against three; father will be split against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother” (Luke 12:51-53).
Although unity and peace remain a sign of Jesus’ discipleship, nonetheless, Jesus was not giving in to peace at any price! Certainly Jesus wanted his followers to display patience and forebearance, to know when and how to be silent, yes even to turn the other cheek (Luke 6:29). But Jesus also called for courage (if a hand scandalize you, cut it off!, Mark 9:43-48), for truth (let your language be yea or nay, Matthew 5:37), for generosity (the one line which Paul quotes of Jesus in Acts reads, “There is more happiness in giving than receiving”), for fidelity, as his statement on marriage and divorce makes clear, for total dedication (“let the dead bury the dead”, Luke 9:60).
Jesus’ disciples were not united around the weak principle that no body will ever hurt the feelings of anyone else, but rather around an intense desire to enable one another to seek and share the best. Jesus stirred his followers to see a vision of goodness, of kindliness, of peace and justice, of fidelity and honesty. This vision beckoned at times to overwhelming happiness, at other times to the cross and the loss of all that one holds dear. More than anything else according to the gospel for today, this unity was to be modeled upon that of the Holy Trinity. Here the Father shares his entire life with the Son, and the two are locked in love so intense that it becomes the person of the Holy Spirit. For this goal to be realized, Jesus’ disciples must fix their eyes upon him, who in turn lives only for the Father in the bond of the Holy Spirit. Jesus in turn will share with his disciples the glory given to him by the Father before the world began. Jesus also declared: “Your love for me may live in them, and I may live in them.
The resurrection then became all important. The resurrection had enabled Jesus even to despise this earthly life out of love for others and to die for them. In that case he would share the ultimate moment of human existence but he would also be able to introduce the eternal life of God into human death. His own resurrection became a harbinger of everyone’s resurrection. Because each of us sees this vision of Jesus in glory, we too are strengthened to give our lives for others. We are able to undergo heroic suffering for the sake of those we love, and this object of love may have been a stranger up till that moment.
Paul, therefore, could not compromise on the resurrection. Unity was not worth such a cost! Therefore, he clearly announced: “I am a Pharisee and was born a Pharisee. I find myself on trial now because of my hope in the resurrection of the dead.” Paul sought unity, in this case with the Pharisees, unity that kept a vision of the highest hopes before others. At the same time Paul’s words manifest an acute prudence. He averted the attack from his own person by pitting Pharisees and Sadducees against one another. Both were opposed to Paul for declaring that Jesus was the promised Messiah. A person, therefore, does not throw caution to the winds in order to rally round the banner of reckless courage. Just as weakness is not worth the cost and is to be despised, neither is imprudence to be advised, even if it comes under the name of bravery.
Jesus unites his disciples around the very best of human qualities. Jesus’ ideals do more than sanctify our talents of mind and body. Jesus puts a vision before us that leads us beyond what we consider possible. Jesus does more than that. He places that desire at the heart of our existence in the person of himself. He said: “I living in them, you [Father] living in me, that their unity may be complete.
First Reading: Acts 22:30; 23:6-11
Since he wanted to find out what Paul was being accused of by the Jews, the next day he released him and ordered the chief priests and the entire council to meet. He brought Paul down and had him stand before them.
When Paul noticed that some were Sadducees and others were Pharisees, he called out in the council, “Brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. I am on trial concerning the hope of the resurrection of the dead.” When he said this, a dissension began between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. (The Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, or angel, or spirit; but the Pharisees acknowledge all three.) Then a great clamor arose, and certain scribes of the Pharisees’ group stood up and contended, “We find nothing wrong with this man. What if a spirit or an angel has spoken to him?” When the dissension became violent, the tribune, fearing that they would tear Paul to pieces, ordered the soldiers to go down, take him by force, and bring him into the barracks. That night the Lord stood near him and said, “Keep up your courage! For just as you have testified for me in Jerusalem, so you must bear witness also in Rome.”
Gospel: John 17:20-26
“I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.
“Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”