15 May. Wednesday in the Seventh Week of Easter
Acts 20:28ff. Paul’s message to church leaders: Be be shepherds of the church of God.
John 17:11ff. Before leaving them, Jesus prays to the Father, “Sanctify them in the truth.”
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.”
More Blessed to Give than to Take
In his “High Priestly Prayer” Jesus sets his heart on the living Church of the future. “Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.” Even as he foresees the betrayal by Judas Iscariot he still looks forward to a future where his disciples will be faithful and united in love.
The elders recall Paul’s blood and tears, his manual labor and his tireless preaching of the gospel. Paul’s concern reached out to each person individually and it came from a heart flowing over withlove. After saying how he worked to support himself and his companions, Paul urges the elders to do the same. Such a generous spirit will keep our Church vibrant and alive.
Paul quotes Jesus as saying ‘There is more happiness in giving than receiving.’ As this statement cannot be found in any of the written gospels we should attribute it to an early oral tradition and remember how there would not be room enough in the entire world to hold the records if all that Jesus said and did were written down (Jn 21:25). We work toward the future, guided not only by the written Scriptures but by traditions and customs handed down in our Church, aware of the example of the saints and to looking to the “cloud of witnesses” who have preceded us (Heb 12:1). Above all, we try to remain a grateful, joyful people, following our Lord’s wish “that they may share my joy completely.” This inner joy brings peace and bears the fruit of patience. Like Jesus, Paul holds that we have been consecrated by the truth of the gospel. We are as sacred as the word, as much God’s creation as the word of inspiration. We need never doubt our relationship with God.