Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Last Words

Today's first reading and Gospel are parallel in a way: in the first, Paul is giving his farewell address to the leaders of the Church of Ephesus, the capital of the Roman province of Asia. He had the Ephesian elders come to him at Miletus, knowing that if he had gone to Ephesus, the Church there would have never let him continue his journey to Jerusalem, where "imprisonment and hardships await." In the Gospel, Jesus is offering his last prayer before his own arrest, trial and death.
Paul tells the Ephesians, "I did not shrink from telling you what was for your benefit ...bearing witness to the Gospel of God's grace." Jesus declares, "I revealed your name to those you gave me out of the world."
As I read Paul's talk, I was struck at how closely its sentiments match what we read at the beginning of the letter to the Philippians. Paul is writing from prison, and just as he had said at Miletus "I consider life of no importance to me, if only I may complete the ministry I have received from the Lord Jesus," he writes to the Philippians, "Christ will be glorified in my body, whether by life or death; if I live, that gives me an opportunity for fruitful work among you; for me, life is Christ and death is gain."  It's as if he had just read today's Gospel: "Now this is eternal life: that they should know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ."

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