Paul’s Good-Bye

The first readings at yesterday and today’s Masses from Acts contain St. Paul’s farewell to the presbyters of the Church at Ephesus before his departure for Jerusalem.  Paul knows this is the last time he will see these people who he has taught and who he loves and by the end of his address, the people, who have been taught by Paul and who love him, also realize they will never see him again. Making the scene even more poignant, Paul knows that he is going toward “imprisonment and hardship.” He doesn’t know exactly what he will face, but he know it will not be good. Yet, “compelled by the Spirit” he goes to Jerusalem to face whatever is put before him.

There is real tenderness in Paul’s words to the Ephesians and one can feel his honesty in his words. Importantly for us, his advice to them is equally valid for all of us: keep watch, not only over yourselves, but over the “whole flock;” be vigilant against those who would pervert the truth; help the weak, remembering that it is “more blessed to give than to receive.” And as Paul’s own way of life is a model for the Ephesians, it is a model for us. Paul served “with all humility” and “did not at all shrink” from telling the people what was for their benefit.

Perhaps more importantly Paul tells the Ephesians: “I consider life of no importance ot me, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to bear witness to the Gospel of God’s grace. If we could say the same, we would be saying quite a bit.