7th Week of Easter, Tuesday, May 18
Acts 20:17-27 / John 17:1-11
Paul speaks of his death: "If only I can finish my mission.”
In his book The Clown and the Crocodile, Joseph McLelland makes a provocative statement:"One day a group of people will go to a cemetery, hold a brief service, and return home. All except one; that will be you. "Some might consider this a morbid thought, but Paul wasn't one of those people. We see that from today's reading. looked upon death not as a foe but as a friend. He didn't consider death a tragedy; it was a glory: the crown of victory after a race. Of course, there was sadness in death from the viewpoint of n temporary separation from loved ones. but there was also joy from the viewpoint of achieving the goal toward which all human life is oriented.
What is our view of death? and love are the two wings that carry the good person to heaven." Michelangelo
Paul wisely avoided going to Ephesus where, a year before, the silversmiths had rioted. His sermons had the invincible effect of damaging their idol manufacturing business. He called the elders by messenger to Miletus, where he gave a farewell speech: Today's and tomorrow's reading. The Gospel has the farewell prayer of Jesus for comparison. "I have not hesitated to do anything that would be helpful to you" (verse 20). Twice in verse 20 and 27, he uses an interesting Greek word: "I do not strike the sail", that is, to take down the sail when a storm threatens. "When dangers threaten I did not hastily or easily give in to fear". He bore it all. The sorrows and trials were his. He bore it all in humility, accepting the truth. The Spirit urged him to go to Jerusalem. He did not know what he had to expect there. Like Jesus:
"He set his face steadfastly to Jerusalem". He was warned not to go. He left the most promising work done in relative security and freedom to become a prisoner of Christ, for Christ, as Christ. His conscience was clear. One of the reasons for his courage was that the love of Christ urged him on, the Holy Spirit gave him the strength.
In strikingly parallel ways, both Paul and Christ speak of their mission they have carried out – Christ with absolute certainty, Paul, knowing his limitations, to the best of his abilities. Paul knows that trials are awaiting him, but led by the Holy Spirit who guided his life, he will go ahead, even when he does not know what is awaiting him. Jesus has given the best of himself to make the Father known to all. He prays that they may all be one.
Jesus gave us a summary of this prayer when he said: "It is fulfilled. " What he said in three words before he bowed his head and gave up his Spirit, he explains here for us: He prays for himself (verses 1-5), for his apostles (verses 6-19), and for all Christians (verses 20-26). It is the eucharistic prayer of the high priest, for those whom the Father has given him and whom he represents. It is the prayer of the teacher for his pupils, of the superior for his friends. His hour has come. To this hour his whole life was directed. "A body you have fitted to me. Behold I come to do your will, O God" (Hebrews 10.5). Hé prayed when he came into the world. Now he prays for his death: "Father glorifies me." By this the Father himself is glorified. To know Jesus and his Father is eternal life and eternal happiness. God has sent him; he is his ambassador. Killing an ambassador is an insult to the sovereign who sent him. Jesus turned this into the glory of the Father and his own.
If we were to look up the definition of what life is all about, it may be said that life is the condition that distinguishes animals and plants from inorganic matter, including the capacity for growth, reproduction, functional activity, and continual change preceding death.
That is a scientific definition and it does not tell us more about the dynamics and the meaning of life. That will be more personal and subjective as each of us will have our own personal view of life and what we think of it. For St. Paul, this is his view of life as he puts it in the 1st reading: Life to me is not a thing to waste words on, provided that when I finish my race, I have carried out the mission the Lord Jesus gave me - and that was to bear witness to the Good News of God's grace. St. Paul may be saying that life is not to be spent talking about the unnecessary thing or having too many unnecessary reflections.
To him, life is like a race, the time is short, and the urgency is to bear witness to the Good News of God's grace.
In the gospel, we hear Jesus saying a long prayer to the Father and many words were used. But the words of Jesus are not personal musings or abstract reflections. The words of Jesus are not words about life but words of life and words that give life. His words lead us to eternal life because He is the Word of God.
May our words also bear witness to the Good News of God's grace and may our words also lead others to Jesus, the Word of God.
Lord, our God, your Son, Jesus Christ, carried out the mission you had given him, without fear and in all faithfulness to you. God, give us a bit of his sense of mission. Give us the strength of the Spirit to speak your Word as it is, bold and demanding, without compromising or giving in to the changing moods and fashions of the day. And may our lives be like an open book in which people can read your Word. We ask you this through Christ, our Lord. Amen