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From Miletus, Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church.
When they arrived, he said to them: “You know how I lived the whole time I was with you, from the first day I came into the province of Asia. I served the Lord with great humility and with tears, although I was severely tested by the plots of the Jews. You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house. I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus.
“And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there.
I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.
“Now I know that none of you among whom I have gone about preaching the kingdom will ever see me again.
Therefore, I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of all men.
For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God.”
Proclaiming the Gospel
Recently the Gospel reading has been Jesus telling his disciples that he is going to leave them but they are not to worry because the Holy Spirit to be with them. Now in Acts, we have Paul telling the leader of the church in Ephesus that he is going to leave them.
Jesus has told his disciples that they will do even greater things than he has done. This scene speaks of the reality of following Jesus. Paul is not boasting of all that he has done. Neither is he defending it. He simply states what it means to do what Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, has asked him to do. In humility he recounts the suffering and pain he has endured. This was a tearful scene. The leaders were seeing the outpouring of a man who had not hesitated to preach the Gospel wherever he went. In today’s language, he had shown no racial prejudice. His only concern was to bring people to Jesus. This was a man with a mission. Just like in the films, his mission, that he chose to accept, involved much danger, and whatever the difficulties, he would complete his mission.
But now his mission was to be even more dangerous. He was going to Jerusalem despite the knowing exactly what that would mean. Like all true film heroes, he was undeterred. The Holy Spirit had a mission for him and he was going to undertake it, whatever the consequences. His mission was to testify to God’s grace. And we know from all the accounts in Acts that Paul was witness to that fact.
He says that they will probably never see him again. As I said, his must have been a tearful meeting. This scene reminds us of the haunting images of people watching as their loved one went in an ambulance, alone, with the early signs of Covid-19, never seen again. That has certainly made us wary of this horrible disease.
But this is an uplifting account. The Holy Spirit’s presence in that meeting must have been so real to them all. Who are the people we know that the Holy Spirit is at work in? We know it because we can see it in their lives, their manner, everything about them. We remember those we have known who have left us to be with Jesus in heaven. We miss them but their lives inspire us to continue being a faithful witness to Jesus. Their wise words and humble caring attitude speak to us in all we do and say.
As the apostle Paul says:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Hebrews 12:1
Risen, ascended Lord,
as we rejoice at your triumph,
fill your Church on earth with power and compassion,
that all who are estranged by sin
may find forgiveness and know your peace,
to the glory of God the Father. Amen