Acts 22:30; 23:6-11
Since he wanted to find out what Paul was being accused of by the Jews, the next day he released him and ordered the chief priests and the entire council to meet. He brought Paul down and had him stand before them.
When Paul noticed that some were Sadducees and others were Pharisees, he called out in the council, “Brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. I am on trial concerning the hope of the resurrection of the dead.” When he said this, a dissension began between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. (The Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, or angel, or spirit; but the Pharisees acknowledge all three.) Then a great clamor arose, and certain scribes of the Pharisees’ group stood up and contended, “We find nothing wrong with this man. What if a spirit or an angel has spoken to him?” When the dissension became violent, the tribune, fearing that they would tear Paul to pieces, ordered the soldiers to go down, take him by force, and bring him into the barracks.
That night the Lord stood near him and said, “Keep up your courage! For just as you have testified for me in Jerusalem, so you must bear witness also in Rome.”
Psalm 16:1-2, 5, 7-11
Protect me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord;
The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup;
you hold my lot.
I bless the Lord who gives me counsel;
in the night also my heart instructs me.
I keep the Lord always before me;
because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.
Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices;
my body also rests secure.
For you do not give me up to Sheol,
or let your faithful one see the Pit.
You show me the path of life.
In your presence there is fullness of joy;
in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
“I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.
“Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me. I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”
When Jesus was praying for his disciples, as we read in today’s Gospel, he was asking for more than just for the Father to take care of them when Jesus was no longer with them. As Jesus is preparing to be arrested, as he prepares for his passion and death, he prays for his disciples for the critically important role they will play after the resurrection. It is in that prayer that we see very clearly what Jesus’ intent was with having a band of followers in the first place. While only Jesus can lay down his life for the sin of the world and take his life up again, the disciples are trusted with the job of telling the story afterward. As Jesus made his glory manifest to them, it was their job to share it with the whole world. If I put myself in the disciples’ shoes, I would certainly want that prayer as well! As someone who has had to work together with other people, it is easy to see how the disciples’ mission could have fallen apart. Human beings are not perfect, we are not always consistent, and we don’t always keep our priorities straight. In order for them to have this unity that Jesus prays for, in order for them to accomplish the task God set before them, in order for the message of the Gospel to be spread throughout the entire world, the disciples needed the Holy Spirit. This is the love between the Father and the Son that Jesus is asking the Father to share with the disciples. This is the great unifier. The Holy Spirit will keep them consistent and constant in their message and make their actions effective.
We see the manifestation of this in our first reading from the Acts of the Apostles. Paul was always lead by the Holy Spirit, so he cleverly sets the Sadducees and the Pharisees at odds with each other among the Sanhedrin. They do not have that unity of discernment as the disciples had. The gathering grows violent as they disagree, but Paul is saved out of the middle of it. The Holy Spirit directs him again where he is to go to continue to tell the story. And although the Spirit is directing him to go to Rome, the place where he is ultimately martyred, we have comfort in the psalm, knowing that God is in charge the entire time. Though all men die, the psalmist assures us that those who die in the Lord will not be shown the pit, but will be shown the path of life and fullness of joy in God’s presence. May we always pray that we are lead by the Holy Spirit, to spread the good news of Jesus to everyone in our lives, and that the Spirit will always show us the path of life.
Prayer: O Lord, send us your Spirit. Help us to always listen and obey your word. In this, we know we are united to you. May we always be one with you in our words and our actions. Help us to trust in you every step of our journeys, so that we may journey to you and be happy with you forever. Amen.