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.
Bless the Lord, my soul!
Lord God, how great you are,
clothed in majesty and glory,
wrapped in light as in a robe! (R./)
How many are your works, O Lord!
In wisdom you have made them all.
The earth is full of your riches.
Bless the Lord, my soul. (R./)
All of these look to you
to give them their food in due season.
You give it, they gather it up:
you open your hand, they have their fill. (R./)
You take back your spirit, they die,
returning to the dust from which they came.
You send forth your spirit, they are created;
and you renew the face of the earth. (R./)
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.
Our readings today are the final paragraphs of both the Acts of the Apostles and of St John’s gospel. The Acts completes St Luke’s two-volume story, weaving a close pattern of continuity from book one (the Gospel) into book two (the Acts). His Gospel begins from late Old Testament Jerusalem (chs. 1-2) and moves via John the Baptist’s work at the river Jordan (ch. 3) and Jesus’ work of preaching and healing in Galilee, to complete the circle back in Jerusalem, where Jesus was crucified and glorified (Chs. 22-24). A major segment of this gospel is the Journey Narrative (chapters 9-19), that portrays Jesus’ life-journey as a “going up” to Jerusalem, on his way toward the cross and resurrection. The Acts also starts in Jerusalem where the disciples are filled with the Spirit, and are ready to spread the faith to the wider world (chs. 1-12). Its major segment is the “Journey Narrative” of St Paul and his companions (chs. 13-28), who travelled through the Greek speaking world, founding churches or local communities of faith. All of Paul’s activity leads up to his arrival in Rome, which heralds the worldwide spread of the faith. Rome, the centre of empire, is the new Jerusalem where the disciples praise the Lord.
The “Journey” idea of Luke and Acts can be a model for our own lives. Every phase and every experience, whether hard or easy, is part of our journey towards the new “Jerusalem.” Both the Gospel and Acts invite us to see life as a meaningful journey, guided by divine providence. There are stages of joy and of effort and also times for resting and renewal. Trusting in Jesus we can see each day as part of our journey toward our destiny with God.
Today’s gospel scene features three main characters, Jesus, Peter and the Beloved Disciple. Peter had just received an important role, “Feed my lambs and my sheep.” Instead of asking what this new responsibility might mean, Peter asks about the future of the Beloved Disciple, “What about him, Lord?” Jesus seems to say, “I have other plans for him. You just follow me, doing the work I have given you.”
Peter and the Beloved Disciple had different roles to play. Peter’s great ministry ended with his martyrdom in Rome, during the first persecution under emperor Nero. The Beloved Disciple stayed in the East and seems to have died an old man, whether in Ephesus or on the island of Patmos. The Lord has different roles for each of us, something that no one else can do. Rather than wondering, like Peter, what God wants from other people, we need to discern what task is given to us, personally. Comparison with others is just a distraction; we can only be ourselves. The Lord whas a unique role for each one of us.