When we came into Rome, Paul was allowed to live by himself, with the soldier who was guarding him. Three days later he called together the local leaders of the Jews. When they had assembled, he said to them, "Brothers, though I had done nothing against our people or the customs of our ancestors, yet I was arrested in Jerusalem and handed over to the Romans. When they had examined me, the Romans wanted to release me, because there was no reason for the death penalty in my case. But when the Jews objected, I was compelled to appeal to the emperor—even though I had no charge to bring against my nation. For this reason therefore I have asked to see you and speak with you, since it is for the sake of the hope of Israel that I am bound with this chain." They replied, "We have received no letters from Judea about you, and none of the brothers coming here has reported or spoken anything evil about you. But we would like to hear from you what you think, for with regard to this sect we know that everywhere it is spoken against."
After they had set a day to meet with him, they came to him at his lodgings in great numbers. From morning until evening he explained the matter to them, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the law of Moses and from the prophets. Some were convinced by what he had said, while others refused to believe. So they disagreed with each other; and as they were leaving, Paul made one further statement: "The Holy Spirit was right in saying to your ancestors through the prophet Isaiah,
"Go to this people and say, You will indeed listen, but never understand, and you will indeed look, but never perceive. For this people's heart has grown dull, and their ears are hard of hearing, and they have shut their eyes; so that they might not look with their eyes, and listen with their ears, and understand with their heart and turn—and I would heal them." Let it be known to you then that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen."
He lived there two whole years at his own expense and welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.
Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them; he was the one who had reclined next to Jesus at the supper and had said, "Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?" When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, "Lord, what about him?" Jesus said to him, "If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? Follow me!" So the rumor spread in the community that this disciple would not die. Yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but, "If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?"
This is the disciple who is testifying to these things and has written them, and we know that his testimony is true. But there are also many other things that Jesus did; if every one of them were written down, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.
The readings today are the final verses of Acts and of John's gospel. Acts rounds out Saint Luke's theological purpose, which extended from his earlier book (the Gospel) into his second book (Acts). In his Gospel Luke moves from Old Testament Jerusalem (chs. 1-2) via the Jordan River and John the Baptist (ch. 3) and a wandering ministry of preaching and healing, to complete the circle back again in Jerusalem, where Jesus was crucified and glorified and where the disciples are back again in the temple, praising God (Chs. 22-24). A major section of Luke's gospel is the Journey Narrative (chapters 9-19, which sets Jesus' entire ministry as a "going up" to Jerusalem, on his way toward the cross and glorification.
Acts too begins in Jerusalem and its central section(chs. 13-28) reports Paul's "Journey Narrative," his travels through the Greek speaking world, founding churches and bringing people into the Christian community. All of Paul's activity leads up to Rome, where Israel's cherished hope now triumphs through the worldwide spread of the faith. Rome, then, is the new Jerusalem where the disciples praise the Lord.
The "Journey" theme of Luke's Gospel and Acts must find place in our lives. Every moment and every experience, good or bad, easy or difficult, is bringing us toward this new "Jerusalem," this "Rome." Here we praise God for his wonderful acts in our lives. Prophecies are fulfilled. Both the Gospel and Acts inflame our faith and confidence. All is part of a meaningful journey. There are stages of joy and of effort. Sometimes we have to go around a barrier, and even for a while seem to be going backward. There is the need for resting and recouping strength, such as are found in the gospel and in Acts. Jesus can turn each experience, no matter what it may have been, into a new stage of our road toward our destination, the heavenly Jerusalem.
"Wait until I come." Eternity will be the continuation of the final moment in our earthly journey. Jesus comes to us again and again. Our prayer now is a foretaste of heavenly joy. What Paul said to his Jewish visitors in Rome, he says to us: we too share the hope of Israel, as fulfilled in the death and resurrection of Jesus at Jerusalem.
There are three characters in today's gospel, Jesus, Peter and the beloved disciple. Jesus had just given Peter an important role in the church, "Feed my lambs, feed my sheep," Jesus had said to him. Peter then asks Jesus about the beloved disciple, "What about him, Lord?" he said. In reply Jesus seems to say, "Look I have other plans for him. You follow me, in accordance with the work I have given you." Peter and the beloved disciple each had their own role to play, but they were different roles. Peter gave his life for Jesus in Rome. The beloved disciple was responsible for the fourth gospel and seems to have lived to an old age. The Lord has different roles for all of us. There is something each of us can do for the Lord that no one else can do. Rather than looking over our shoulders at others, as Peter was inclined to do in today's gospel, we have to try and discern the particular calling the Lord has given us and then be as faithful and as generous in our response to it as we can. We cannot be someone else; we can only be ourselves. The Lord wants us to be ourselves because he has a unique role in mind for each one of us.