23rd May. Wednesday of the 7th Week of Easter
Acts 20:28ff. Paul’s final call to church leaders: Shepherd the church of God.
John 17:11ff. Before leaving them, he prays to the Father, “Sanctify them in the truth.”
More Blessed to Give
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! But he gives much more attention to other advice. The elders are to remember Paul’s blood and tears, his manual labour and his tireless preaching of the gospel. Strength of conviction and strong emotional ties are revealed in his words: “I never ceased warning you individually even to the point of tears.” His pastoral care reached to each person individually and it came from an overflowing heart. The gospel message came from Paul’s heart, and the words were soaked with his tears and blood. In a literal sense, he mingled his own tears with those of Jesus, from whose dying side came water and blood (John 19:34). The elders too are to preach with truth but equally with emotional conviction.
After Paul explicitly describes how he worked to support himself and his companions, he did so in an open gesture (“with these hands of mine”,) and tells the elders to do the same. “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, giving away what little we possess. Paul quotes from Jesus who said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” This precise statement cannot be found in any of the gospels, and it is very surprising that Luke 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).
Despite the difficulties and trials ahead of us, we are encouraged to live joyfully. Jesus intends “that they may share in my joy completely.” If this joy is deep it brings tranquillity, bears the fruit of patience, and fits us well to face what the future may bring.
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.”