Today we remember and celebrate the faith of St. John I who had become Pope in 523. He was imprisoned shortly after and died not too long after that. May we all follow his example and be willing to suffer to bring Christ to others.
The first reading for today comes from Acts 25:13-21 “…There is a man (Paul) here left in custody by Felix. When I was in Jerusalem the chief priests and the elders of the Jews brought charges against him and demanded his condemnation. I answered them that it was not Roman practice to hand over an accused person before he has faced his accusers and had the opportunity to defend himself against their charge”…”His accusers stood around him, but did not charge him with any of the crimes I suspected. Instead they had some issues with him about their own religion and about a certain Jesus who had died but who Paul claimed was alive….”…”I asked if he were willing to go to Jerusalem and there stand trial on these charges. And when Paul appealed that he be held in custody for the Emperor’s decision, I ordered him held until I could send him to Caesar.”
It appears we are about to experience more of the same in Luke’s writing of Acts, namely, Jewish accusations, Paul’s defense and Roman certification of innocence. However, one important request from Paul is just about to change things drastically, the appeal to Caesar was granted and he was told “to Caesar you shall go.”
Now Paul is on his way to Rome, to see the Emperor. This appeal fulfills Jesus’ words “Courage! You have borne witness for me in Jerusalem, now you must do the same in Rome.” We just read very similar lines a few days ago.
In the days to come Paul will be fulfilling Jesus’ words “you will be my witness not only in Jerusalem but throughout Judea and Samaria and indeed to the ends of the earth.”
Let us try to understand better how Luke perceived the main characters of this saga. First the Jews; it varies but most often he uses a term to describe them, which means “religious leaders.” They appear to be intent on ridding the world of Paul either by ambush or by Roman condemnation to death.
Paul is innocent of all the charges brought up against him. This situation bears similarity to Jesus’ trial presided by Pilate. Festus, a Roman Governor repeatedly stated the innocence of Paul, which brings yet another similarity with Jesus. Pilate repeatedly stated that Jesus was innocent during His trial.
Paul’s appearances before a governor and a King are also foretold by Jesus to Paul. All the persecutions took place because of Jesus’ teachings. Although painful, it would give Paul an opportunity to “bear witness.”
Another character is Festus, the Roman Governor. He is the example of a very efficient and just public servant who made sure Paul had his trial immediately. He did not uncover any cause worthy of death in Paul’s conduct. He could not understand why then, Christianity be considered as such an insurrected or rebellious movement in the Roman Empire. This trial leads to the Appeal Scene, which is what appears to be the murky problem but too complex for Paul to get into.
As we read and pray with the Book of Acts, it appears that Luke’s purpose in writing Acts is to edify his communities, not to promulgate the number of court trials. What appears to be the most important purpose throughout this last segment, is dealing with Paul’s journey to Rome where he will get to witness Jesus’ Name. We must all remember that it is our duty, also, to “witness Jesus’ name” always!
The Second Reading comes from the Gospel of John 21:15-19 …”he said to Simon Peter, Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these? Simon Peter answered him Yes, Lord, you know that I love you. Jesus said to him, Feed my lambs. He then said to Simon Peter a second time, Simon, son of John, do you love me? Simon Peter answered him, Yes, Lord, you know that I love you. He said to him, Tend my sheep. He said to him the third time, Simon, son of John, do you love me?”….”Lord you know everything; you know that I love you. Jesus said to him, Feed my sheep.”
…”He said this signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when he had said this, he said to him, Follow me.
It would almost seem this scene may have been printed forever in Peter’s mind.
It seems that as Jesus looked at the little group of the disciples, although He knew what was in everyone’s heart, he wanted to hear Peter’s answer. The way he asked the question, perhaps Jesus was gently reminding Peter how once he had thought he alone could remain faithful and how his courage had failed. When Peter answers this time he is no longer comparing himself to the other disciples.
Jesus asked the same question three times. There was a reason for that. It was three times that Peter denied the Lord and three times that his Lord gave him a chance to repent and affirm his love.
In his infinite forgiveness, Jesus is giving Peter the chance to wipe out the memory of that sinful threefold denial, by substituting with a threefold declaration of love.
And what came as a result of the love enthusiastically declared by Peter? He was given a task, to give his life to shepherding the sheep and the lambs of Jesus’ flock.
The same applies to us. We prove that we can love Jesus only by loving others. Isn’t this what Jesus has been praying for? That we love one another?
But, his declaration of love, not only asked of him to dedicate his life to taking care of Jesus’ flock but it brought a cross to him. Jesus knew and told Peter that he would die for the Lord. The day came when, in Rome, Peter did die for the Lord, crucified. But when the time came, he asked to be nailed to the cross head downwards. He said he was not worthy to have the same death as his Lord.
Love always involves responsibility and it always involves sacrifice. What John appears to be saying here is that we do not really love Christ, unless we are honestly prepared to carry on the task he asks of us and ready to take up his Cross.
John really wanted to show Peter as the great shepherd of Christ’s people.
Now, people are people, no matter where they may be or when it may take place. People inevitably draw comparisons, and the early Church was no exception. Some would say John was the great one because his thoughts seem to fly higher than those of any other man. Yet, others would say Paul was the great one, for he went to the ends of the earth relentlessly, taking the message of Christ. As we have read John’s Gospel for today, we see that Peter, too, had a special place. He had the great honor and the awesome task of being the shepherd of Christ’s sheep. And we certainly have been able to attest to these differences by reading and meditating on the Sacred Scriptures.
The following is a short reflection, one of the many you may come up with yourselves, after reading and breaking open the Word of God. So, what does all this have to do with you and me? We may not be able to think and write like John; we may not be able to go to the ends of the world like Paul but each one of us can be a vigilant and loving shepherd, guarding someone else from going astray. Each one of us is able to feed the lambs of Christ with the food of the word of God.
The Alleluia Verse, from John 14:26. I cannot help but include this beautiful verse in context of this reflection.
Now that we are preparing for the coming of the Holy Spirit, or Pentecost, the Birth of our Mother Church, this verse resonates with me as a loving assurance that although the demands of being a Christian may seem unattainable at times, we are not expected to fulfill our call by ourselves.
“The Holy Spirit will teach you everything and remind you of all I told you” Alleluia, Alleluia
Please meditate on the Dekaena to the Holy Spirit meditation 9.
Pray for PAPA priests, pray daily the rosary and the Divine Mercy Chaplet.