The first readings from the Mass of today and tomorrow together contain Paul’s farewell address to the Ephesians. He has been living among them, teaching them and clearly developing close relationships among them. Yet, he is now “compelled by the Spirit” to go to Jerusalem, where he has been warned that imprisonment and hardships and his likely death await him. He knows as he is speaking to the Ephesians that he will never see them again, that this really is goodbye.
As I reflect on the passage, I think of how hard I would have found it to be in Paul’s position. I have a hard enough time saying goodbye to close friends when I know several months may pass before I see them again. But to say goodbye knowing it is the last time your friends will throw their arms around you and kiss you (as the Ephesians did to Paul after they prayed together), let alone knowing you are headed toward likely death, how hard must that be?
Yet Paul is crystal clear about what matters. “I consider life of no importance to me, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jeus, to bear witness to the Gospel of God’s grace.”
I don’t know that I always have that same clarity of vision. Sometimes I get a little tangled up and give too much importance to things that don’t deserve it. Sometimes my anxieties take time and energy away from what matters. So Paul is inspiring to me. I pray for his strength as I carry on our ministry of bearing witness to the Gospel.