Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are all presented with the occasion when St. Paul stood alone in Jerusalem facing the entire Sanhedrin or the Jewish High Council, whose members wanted him destroyed and eliminated, much as how they had once also acted against his Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, a few decades earlier, when they condemned Him to death and handed Him over to the Romans to be crucified.
St. Paul went to Jerusalem willingly even though he knew fully that he would be persecuted by the Sanhedrin, many of whose members had been strongly against the Christian faith and also St. Paul’s efforts in converting both the Jews and the Gentiles alike in many places he had visited during his missionary journeys. St. Paul knew that he was heading to his suffering and death, but he accepted the role he was entrusted with by God, and entrusted himself to God completely.
And as he stood before the Sanhedrin, St. Paul exposed the ugly truth of their unjustified attempt to judge and condemn him. Much like that of the arrest and trial of the Lord Jesus, the Sanhedrin was bitterly divided, as many of its members could not agree with each other, and many of them could not reconcile their differing opinions and views, which resulted in them not being able to come up with a reliable and valid accusation, against either the Lord or St. Paul, and in the end, only through the High Priest’s manipulations that the Sanhedrin ended up condemning the Lord to death.
At the occasion of St. Paul’s trial, as immediately as St. Paul mentioned that he was a member of the Pharisees, great debate and conflict broke out among the members of the Sanhedrin. Those who belonged to the Sadducees group immediately rose in anger and became angry against the Pharisees in the Sanhedrin. The whole trial became chaotic and instead of focusing on St. Paul, they threw themselves at each other, showing that everything was just about matters of personal desire and ambition for them.
At that time, both the Sadducees and the Pharisees were two of the most dominant groups within the Jewish community, with the Sadducees representing the secular elite, the nobility and all those who favoured assimilation with the Hellenistic and Roman cultures and way of life. They did not believe in the Resurrection and other spiritual matters, in Angels and in the afterlife among others. On the other extreme, we have the Pharisees who were those zealously protecting the Jewish customs and traditions, representing the religious and intellectual elites.
Each of these groups had their own motivations and aims, their own conflicting desires, most of which revolved around influence, power, authority in the land of Judea and Jerusalem. They were fighting for influence and control over the people and the community, and when St. Paul highlighted this fact that he was a Pharisee, immediately the Sadducees became angry against the Pharisees, venting out their suppressed anger and hatred, while the Pharisees then used the opportunity to slam the Sadducees for their lack of faith in matters like Resurrection among other things.
In our Gospel today, we heard the Lord Jesus as He continued His prayer to His heavenly Father as we have also heard for the past few days’ Gospel passages. In today’s segment, we heard the Lord speaking to His Father about the unity of His people, His prayer that they all may be One, just as He and the Father are all united in the perfect unity of love in the Holy Trinity of Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. And through this, God wants us all to know that as Christians, all of us are called to share in this unity in God and through God.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, in our Church today, we have also people with differing opinions, groups and factions, both within the larger Church as well as in our own local Christian communities, parishes and societies. We have people being conflicted against each other, holding grudges and also involved in gossip and plotting. All of these things are exactly what the Pharisees and Sadducees had done, and what people who have not had faith in God were doing. If we truly call ourselves as Christians, then we all must realise that we cannot continue with this way of living our faith.
Instead, we should seek and strive our best for unity among each and every one of us. As Christians all of us must model ourselves on the Unity and Oneness present in God, for if we are all truly His people, His beloved children and loved ones, then we have to model ourselves, our relationships and interactions with God as our focus and role model at all times. Are we able to dedicate ourselves and seek to achieve this, brothers and sisters in Christ?
Let us therefore foster harmony and unity through our everyday life and actions, our interactions with one another that we may indeed a united people by our faith in the Lord. Let us all follow the Lord and unite our purpose from now on, to serve and glorify Him at all times by our lives, our actions and deeds. May the Lord bring us all to true unity and help us all that we may grow well in faith, at all times. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.