Immersed in Christ: May 30, 2020
Saturday, Week Seven of Easter
Today’s liturgy gives the end of both the Acts of the Apostles and John’s Gospel. Acts ends focused on the coming death of Paul; John ends focused on the future death of Peter. The Responsorial (Psalm 11) says of both: “The just will gaze on your face, O Lord.”
In Acts 28: 16-20; 30-31 Paul, who has been sent as a prisoner to Rome, is portrayed as being pretty much in charge of the situation. First (chapter 26) he convinces King Agrippa of his innocence and tries to convert him! Then he predicts the loss of the ship they put him on for Rome. When they don’t take his advice and the ship is about to be lost, he assures them there will be no loss of life. And there isn’t. They run aground, as Paul said they would. Paul is bitten by a poisonous snake and is taken for a god because he remains unharmed. He heals the father of their host and many others, who load their ship with provisions when they sail. When they reach Rome, Acts says, “Paul spent the whole of the two years in his own rented lodging, welcoming all who came to visit him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching the truth about the Lord Jesus Christ with complete freedom and without hindrance from anyone.” Thus ends Paul’s story in the Acts of the Apostles.
We know that eventually he was martyred in Rome. The same prophecy was made of both Peter and Paul. To Peter Jesus said, “You will stretch out your hands and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.”
For Paul, the prophet Agabus “took Paul’s belt, bound his own feet and hands with it, and said…‘This is the way the Jews in Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.’” And so it was. But even bound, both were in control. They were supremely free to dispose of their lives as they chose.
Karl Rahner wrote, “The greatest free moment of life is death.” By freely, willingly saying “Yes” to death we can take control of our whole existence and bestow it on God. Without reserves. Nothing left out. Irrevocably. Forever. There is no greater freedom, no greater control than this. Jesus, at the most exalted moment of his humiliation modeled it: “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit!” He had said:
I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and… take it up again. I have received this command from my Father. 1
In the Presentation of Gifts, we say this with Christ. We reaffirm the death we accepted by anticipation in Baptism and the risen life it gave, No one can “take our life” from us if we have already chosen to bestow it on God.
John 21: 20-25 ends: “There are many other things that Jesus did; if every one of them were written down… the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.” Our lives are writing them now.
Initiative: Put yourself on the altar at every Mass. Own your life by offering it.
1 John 10:17-18.