“And when the dissension became violent, the tribune, afraid that Paul would be torn in pieces by them, commanded the soldiers to go down and take him by force from among them, and bring him into the barracks. The following night the Lord stood by him and said, ‘Take courage, for as you have testified about me at Jerusalem, so you must bear witness also at Rome’ ” (Acts 23:10-11).
At the beginning of Christianity, Israel was just a colony of Rome. Paul who once fought Christianity became its great evangelist. Even Paul did not find it easy, but God was with him through his trials and tribulations. Once, God miraculously freed Paul and Silas from prison, this time, God spoke to him in captivity: “Take courage, you will bear witness at Rome.”
Paul went to Rome as a prisoner but fast forward two thousand years later, Rome has become the headquarters of the Church. What does this teach us?
1. God knows how to write straight on crooked lines. We do not know why God allows certain things to happen, but God has a plan. What looks like your valley of the shadow of death may eventually become your podium; your launchpad for success.
2. Never be afraid of defending your faith. The fact that the world (despite its hatred) has not been able to destroy Christianity is a testimony; a miracle happening before our very eyes; a proof that God is with His Church. No one can battle with the Lord.
3. Always allow God to do your fighting for you. Just as no one can fight God and succeed, you cannot win unless God is on your side. Seek first God’s kingdom and God will do the rest for you. Just as there was commotion between the Pharisees and Sadducees, God can make your enemies fight themselves while you watch.
4. There is power in unity. Jesus prayed in today’s Gospel passage “may they become perfectly one so that the world may know that you have sent me…” (John 17:23). By all means avoid division, fights, blackmail, hatred etc., in the body of Christ. As St. Paul says, it is better to be wronged and suffer injustice than hold lawsuits against your fellow Christian (1 Corinthians 6:7).
Let us pray: Come Holy Spirit and enkindle in us your Sacred Fire. Amen. Bible Study: Acts 23:6-11, Psalm 16 and John 17:20-26).
Simon, Do You Love Me?
“When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?’… ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ … ‘Feed my lambs.’ … ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me?’ … ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ … ‘Tend my sheep.’ … ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me?’ …’Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.’ …. ‘Feed my sheep.’” (John 21:15-17)
Very often, you hear people say: “Love is blind.” The meaning of this is that when we are in love, we become blind to the limitations of the other person or better put, we are able to bear with whatever pain or suffering the person brings to us.
Love is like the energy that keeps us going. When you love what you do, you do not see it as work anymore; you just apply yourself to it. This is the reason Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him three times?
If Peter was going to succeed in shepherding the flock entrusted to his care, it was very important that Jesus remained the only love of his life. For all those times, Peter would have to suffer for the sake of the faith, he would think back and remember how he said “yes” to Jesus’ question.
Jesus even went as far as predicting the kind of death Peter would die; how he would stretch his hands while others will tie his belt and take him where he does not wish to go. Love takes no record of wrongs; love never ends; love never gives up.
Put yourself in the shoes of Peter and ask: “Do I love God? How deep is my love for God? To what extent am I willing to suffer for God’s sake?” Very often, we assume we love God but the truth is that it is those things we stand to gain from God that we love. This is why we easily turn away from God when those things are not forthcoming.
In truth, if we don’t love God, we are only pretending to be Christians; trying to use God instead of worshipping Him. As Jesus would say: “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” (Matthew 6:24)
Our first reading today contains one episode of the account of Paul’s travails for the sake of spreading the Gospel. In truth, the only thing that kept Paul going was his ever-burning love for God.
Let us pray: Come Holy Spirit and enkindle in us your Sacred Fire. Amen. Bible Study: Acts 25:13-21, Psalm 103 and John 21:15-19).