Acts 20:28-38; Ps 68:29,30,33-36ab; Jn 17:11b-19
The power and strength that God gives to his people is the power of the Word. It is their word of revelation that brings truth into our world even though the world has hated us for it. In truth, this word of God’s design for world unity is a threat to the powers that be. God summons all nations of the world to the temple in Jerusalem, and his commands, “let all the kings bring me gifts.” The God who rides on the heights of the ancient heavens wants offerings and gifts from every nation. The Almighty, The Awesome, desires the sacrifice of praise from every human heart. Such a glorious vision moved the heart of Saint Paul to preach that gracious word of his that can enlarge us and give us a share among all who are consecrated. Saint Paul prays and exhorts his flock in Ephesus to remain in The Word as he departs. The Lord Jesus also prays for his fragile flock; “I do not ask you to take them out of the world, but to guard them from the evil one.” Both departures evoke prayers and blessings upon those left behind.
In his final address to the elders, shepherds, bishops of the church in Ephesus, Saint Paul is exhorting them to guard the truth that has been revealed in his missionary preaching. Saint Paul is afraid that after his departure wolves or heretics will invade the flock and distort the truth and lead astray those who believe them. This is a legitimate fear and will inspire prayer and faithful living. He wants to keep the church in Ephesus united to the larger church in mutual and loving care of the weak and those who have gone astray. Generosity with God in the heart opens one to the truth, and generosity with all in need is possible out of the bounty of God’s generosity. The truth of God’s generous grace preached by Saint Paul is the power to save the Ephesians. Likewise, these believers proclaim God’s generosity by maintaining unity with all who are consecrated to the truth. Only the strength and power of the Word of Truth will keep the Ephesians united to the whole Body of Christ. Only the generosity of a united church will enable us to attract all the nations to the generosity of The Awesome, Lord God Almighty.
Saint Paul was concerned about the wolves within the community; the Lord Jesus is concerned about the danger of the evil one. Although they are to remain in the world, they are not of the world; as the Lord Jesus explains, “they are not of the world any more than I am of the world.” While still with them the Lord Jesus guarded his disciples with the Father’s Name. Now that he is departing from his disciples, the Lord Jesus prays that the Father will guard us, his fragile followers, by consecrating us by means of truth. The Lord Jesus prays that his Father, who is holy, will make us holy too. We reveal the truth of the Father’s holiness just as Christ did. Only in this way will we be protected from the evil one. The Lord Jesus consecrates himself in the truth, as he fulfills the Father’s plan to bring all people under the severe mercy of the cross. The world that rejects the truth the Lord Jesus brings will also reject those who witness to that truth. We are not afraid of this rejection because we are consumed by the truth. Only in Christ Jesus is the world united and we witness to that truth in the power and strength of His Body and Blood.