In our Scripture readings for today, we have passages from two "farewell" events. In our first reading from Acts, Paul is saying good bye to his fellow disciples. In our Gospel reading from John, Jesus is praying to the Father in front of His disciples at the Last Supper.
What strikes me about both readings is admittedly a recurring theme for me – how the Gospel goes contrary to the wisdom of the world. In our reading from Acts, Paul describes how he lived among them and says, "In every way I have shown you that by hard work of that sort we must help the weak, and keep in mind the words of the Lord Jesus who himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give then to receive.’" That last line is so familiar, but it is so radical! It is radical because even though the world gives lip service to it, the world rarely operates that way, and when it does, it makes the news for being so extraordinary.
The Gospel calls us to a perspective that is extraordinary to the eyes of the world. That is why, I think, we hear Jesus say twice in our Gospel reading: "They do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world." We are not to belong to the world, but to the Gospel, to Jesus. That doesn’t mean we don’t engage the world, because Jesus also says, "I do not ask that you take them out of the world but that you keep them from the evil one."
We are called to love the world, but not to follow the ways of the world. The more we are willing to love, the more we stay away from evil, and the more the world learns of the Good News. The more we love, the more we bring the hope of the Resurrection and the joy of the Holy Spirit.
May we be willing to love; to give more than to receive, and may God bless the world through us.
Fr. Phil Paxton, C.P. is the director of St. Paul of the Cross Retreat and Conference Center, Detroit, Michigan.