Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the words of the Scripture, we heard of the end of St. Paul’s long missionary journey as he settled in Rome, at the end of his fourth missionary journey across the Mediterranean. He had gone there to appeal to the Roman Emperor for the accusations brought up against him before the governor of Judea by the Jewish Sanhedrin or the High Council. God has called on him to be the bearers of the Good News of God to the people in Rome.
We heard of how St. Paul arrived in Rome after quite a tumultuous journey, if we had read the parts preceding his arrival in Rome. He was quite warmly welcomed by the Jewish community there and also from the growing Christian community in the capital. St. Paul stayed on for two years in Rome in a house which would eventually be the site of the great Roman Church of the Papal Basilica of St. Paul Outside-the-Walls, built exactly on the site were St. Paul used to stay in Rome.
In our Gospel today we then heard something seemingly unrelated as we heard of the moment when in the Last Supper, the disciples were talking with one another and with the Lord. They were all wondering who was to betray the Lord as in that occasion, the Lord Himself had said that one of them was to betray Him to His enemies. Although it was indeed Judas Iscariot who would betray the Lord, but it was completely unknown to the disciples then, and they were all wondering among themselves who this traitor could have been.
Then St. Peter asked about the disciple whom the Lord Jesus loved, in this case His seemingly favourite disciple, namely St. John the Apostle. In truth, the reason why St. Peter and the other disciples wondered about this was because at that time, they were all still thinking in human and worldly terms, and undeniably, they were jealous of the relations between St. John and the Lord Jesus, and it did not help that if we recall, in one occasion, the mother of St. John and his brother St. James asked the Lord specifically to grant her sons positions of honour and favour.
What is the connection between these two readings, brothers and sisters in Christ? It is the fact that all of those who followed the Lord had been given specific tasks and were called to a diversity of purpose and ministries. And it is often that we do not realise this calling and the purpose to which we have been called by God. As the Lord Himself said to the disciples when they wondered why He said that the favoured disciple, St. John would not die before the Lord came again, all were in fact to fulfil what God would do through each and every one of His disciples.
There are many possible interpretations of these words of the Lord, but the most common one is that because St. John was entrusted with the great revelation which he received while he was exiled to the Island of Patmos in his old age, the Lord was speaking figuratively, as He showed St. John everything that was to happen and will happen in the future, as the world is to come to an end, all the persecutions of the followers of Christ and eventually, with the coming of the glory of the Lord and the New Jerusalem. Indeed, St. John did not die before he saw the vision of the glorious Second Coming of the Lord.
If we look carefully at what had transpired here, we can see that there are often too many things that we do not understand, and we have to learn to trust in God, and follow and obey Him in everything that He has told us to do. Are we able to follow Him wholeheartedly and commit ourselves to Him in faith, brothers and sisters in Christ? That was what St. Paul had done, entrusting himself to the Lord and followed Him wherever He had led him to go, and it was by God’s will that he ended up in Rome.
If we think in worldly terms, it might have been stupid for St. Paul to go to Rome, as after all, he could have hid himself and avoid having to go through suffering as he endured from the Jewish elders in Jerusalem, the ordeals of his travel to Rome, having his ship battered by a great storm that sank the ship and almost killed him, and eventually to face his martyrdom in Rome. But St. Paul humbly obeyed and did whatever the Lord had told him to do, and in the process, he had helped the cause of the Lord further, strengthening the Christian community in Rome by his presence and work there.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we are about the celebrate the Solemnity of the Pentecost Sunday tomorrow and therefore come to the end of the glorious season of Easter, we are now reminded through these Scripture passages that each and every one of us as the followers of the Lord and His faithful people have also been called to the various vocations and callings in life. God has entrusted us with many talents, abilities and opportunities to be His good, courageous and faithful witnesses in our various communities.
But are we willing, ready and able to give our lives and commit them to His greater glory in His service? Are we able to glorify God by our daily living and our actions? We must realise that Easter does not end with the Pentecost and then we go on with our usual lives. Rather, the Solemnity of the Pentecost tomorrow is a reminder that each and every one of us are the Easter people, living with hope and strength through the Lord’s glorious Resurrection, by which He has shown us the path to eternal life.
Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all be willing witnesses of the Lord and let our every words, actions and deeds bear the truth of God to all peoples, so that everyone who hears us, listens to us, and witness our actions and lives may also come to believe in the Lord, our God and Saviour. May God be with us always, and may He guide us in our lives and help us to be ever more faithful to Him. Amen.