Wedneday in the 7th Week of Easter
Ss. Charles Lwanga and companions, martyrs.
Charles Lwanga (1860-1886) was a Ugandan Catholic catechist martyred for his faith, along with 11 others, during the 1886 persecution under King Mwanga.
First Reading: Acts 20:28-38
(Paul’s final advice to the church leaders: shepherd the church of God.)
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
(Before leaving them, Jesus prays to the Father, Sanctify them in the truth.)
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
Paul offers his collkeagues both advice and example. They are to remember his example of manual labour and of tirelessly preaching the gospel. Deep conviction and strong emotional ties are revealed in his words. His pastoral care reached to each person individually coming from an overflowing heart. The gospel message was so viatal to Paul that his words seemed soaked with his tears and blood. He seems to feel that his tears mingled with those of Jesus, from whose dying side came water and blood. The elders too are to preach with truth but equally with emotional conviction.
After describing how he worked to support himself and his companions (including the open gesture “with these hands of mine”) he urges the elders to do the same. “It is by such hard work that you must help the weak.” Leaders in the church are to serve the people, not exploit them, and be prepared to give away what little they possess, to build up the community. Paul quotes from Jesus who said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” This precise phrase is not found in any of the gospels, and surprisingly Luke did not include it in his “first volume.” But the fact that Paul quotes it serves to illustrate the truth that if all that Jesus said and did were written down “there would not be room in the entire world to hold the books” (John 21:24).
Despite the difficulties we foresee for our church, we are encouraged to live joyfully, for Jesus intends us to share in his joy. Trusting in him fits us well enough to face whatever the future may bring.