The next day, wanting to find out what Paul was being accused of by the Jews, [the Tribune] 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."
Preserve me, God, I take refuge in you.
I say to the Lord: 'You are my God.'
O Lord, it is you who are my portion and cup;
it is you yourself who are my prize. (R./)
I will bless the Lord who gives me counsel,
who even at night directs my heart.
I keep the Lord ever in my sight:
since he is at my right hand, I shall stand firm. (R./)
And so my heart rejoices, my soul is glad;
even my body shall rest in safety.
For you will not leave my soul among the dead,
nor let your beloved know decay. (R./)
You will show me the path of life,
the fullness of joy in your presence,
at your right hand happiness for ever. (R./)
Jesus said to his disciples,
"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."
“That they may be completely one.” Jesus wanted unity to flourish among his disciples, as is clear when he prayed: “may they may be one in us, so that the world may believe that you sent me.” But there is also room for debate. In today’s passage from the Acts, Saint Paul defends himself by stirring up debate, setting the Pharisees to argue with the Sadducees about belief in the resurrection. On the other hand, within the church Paul tried hard to promote unity and peace as vital qualities for believers.
Even Jesus himself could be divisive and provocative at times. He put this challenging question: “Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? – I have come for division…. ” The unity of his disciples would not rest on the idea that nobody should ever dare hurt the feelings of another, but rather upon an intense desire to help each other to seek and share what is best.
Jesus taught his followers a vision of goodness, kindness, peace and justice. Basically, their unity was to be modelled upon that between Jesus and the Father. He promised to share with them the glory given to him by the Father.
Looking at the barriers often raised against ecumenical unity, we must hope our leaders realise that unity can only be reached by generous dialogue, not imposed by authority. Jesus puts before us a vision that should lead to unity around his table. It is a desire that he holds very dear, “with I in them, and you in me, may their unity be complete.” If we love him, we must try to make his vision a reality.
As the Father’s love for Jesus is constant, so his love for us is constant and reliable. What is asked is that we remain in his love. Those priveleged to be with him at the last supper did not remain in communion with him during his passion. With the exception of the Beloved Disciple, they all abandoned him. The first question that the risen Jesus asked Peter was, significantly, “Do you love me?” giving Peter the opportunity to return to his first loyalty and renew his commitment to Jesus. We will consider that encounter tomorrow.