Witnesses To The End – Dedicated To The Gospel
The books that have been our main companions throughout the Easter Season end with the committed, enthusiastic witness to the Good News of Jesus: Paul in his captivity, and Peter, whose martyrdom is predicted, and John, the beloved apostle, who has given a true testimony of Jesus in his Gospel.
What is the witness we can give to Jesus? Does our way of life show that we believe in him and love him?
1 Reading: ACTS 28:16-20, 30-31
When he entered Rome, Paul was allowed to live by himself, with the soldier who was guarding him. Three days later he called together the leaders of the Jews. When they had gathered he said to them, “My brothers, although I had done nothing against our people or our ancestral customs, I was handed over to the Romans as a prisoner from Jerusalem. After trying my case the Romans wanted to release me, because they found nothing against me deserving the death penalty. But when the Jews objected, I was obliged to appeal to Caesar, even though I had no accusation to make against my own nation. This is the reason, then, I have requested to see you and to speak with you, for it is on account of the hope of Israel that I wear these chains.” He remained for two full years in his lodgings. He received all who came to him, and with complete assurance and without hindrance he proclaimed the Kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.
Responsorial Psalm: 11:4, 5 and 7
R. (see 7b) The just will gaze on your face, O Lord. or: R. Alleluia.
The LORD is in his holy temple;
the LORD’s throne is in heaven.
His eyes behold,
his searching glance is on mankind. R.
The LORD searches the just and the wicked;
the lover of violence he hates.
For the LORD is just, he loves just deeds;
the upright shall see his face. R.
Alleluia: John 16:7, 13
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I will send to you the Spirit of truth, says the Lord;
he will guide you to all truth.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel: John 21:20-25
Peter turned and saw the disciple following whom Jesus loved, the one who had also reclined upon his chest during the supper and had said, “Master, who is the one who will betray you?” When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about him?” Jesus said to him, “What if I want him to remain until I come? What concern is it of yours? You follow me.” So the word spread among the brothers that that disciple would not die. But Jesus had not told him that he would not die, just “What if I want him to remain until I come? What concern is it of yours?” It is this disciple who testifies to these things and has written them, and we know that his testimony is true. There are also many other things that Jesus did, but if these were to be described individually, I do not think the whole world would contain the books that would be written.
In the readings today we come to the end of the earliest Christian era. Paul, now under house arrest in Rome, is still sharing the good news of Jesus with members of the Jewish community. What a prophetic witness Paul is. The disciple whom Jesus loved in the fourth Gospel is here identified as the author of the Gospel itself. Confusion had arisen as to the length of his life with some believing that he would not die before the return of Christ. But, as the narrative is at pains to explain, Jesus had not said that such would be the case. This apologetic note would seem to point to the fact that the beloved disciple had already died.
With the end of the apostolic age, we realize that the essentials of this definitive entrance of God in history are now in place. And those essentials remain with us today. Their very antiquity is a source of inspiration. In establishing the canon of inspired books, the church has brought us into contact with the authentic beginnings of the Christian faith.
St. Jerome said, “To be ignorant of the Scriptures is to be ignorant of Christ.” One of the main objectives of the liturgy, as well as of this book, is to encourage us to take up the Scriptures. It is an enterprise that will not disappoint; we are drawn into inexhaustible spiritual riches. The author of the fourth Gospel reminds us today that he has been selective in his composition. Many things about the life of Jesus are left unrecorded. But that which is written is to intensify faith in the person of Jesus, who came into the world to bring us new life.
The scriptures that we hear each day are meant to underscore in one way or another this basic fact. However, reading the very last words in John’s Gospel today awakens our earnest longing for the Spirit who comes tomorrow. Come, come, come Holy Ghost, come!
May the Church be an open book in which people can read the Word of God. The Lord be in your hearts and on your lips, that you may worthily proclaim his Gospel, in season and out of season, in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen!