Friday of the Seventh Week of Easter
In Jerusalem, Paul had defended himself before the Sanhedrin, saying, “I am on trial for hope in the resurrection of the dead.” (Acts 23:6) He said this on purpose, knowing that it would cause a division and uproar. Smart move, as he meant to stay in the custody of Roman guards and not be handed over to the chief priests. And because he is a Roman citizen, they protected him and his rights, and ultimately escorted him to Rome. So, during the uproar of the Sanhedrin, the Roman authorities took him again into the compound.
“The following night the Lord stood by him and said, ‘Take courage. For just as you have borne witness to my cause in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness in Rome.’” (Acts 23:11)
It is marvelous and unequivocal how the Lord fulfilled his word. But why to Rome? It was the center of the Roman Empire. It was considered the center of the ancient world. And if Paul preaches the gospel there, the word will surely spread from there to the ends of the earth.
In today’s first reading, we hear a recapitulation of what has happened to Paul since the time he was left in prison by the Roman governor of Judea, Felix. We hear this story from the mouth of the new Roman governor of Judea, Festus. He is telling his royal guests, King Agrippa and Bernice, about this man named Paul.
Paul stands before king after king, governor after governor. The Roman party finds no guilt in him, while the Jewish leaders accuse him of religious dissension. Paul is a Roman citizen, which affords him rights and protection. But the Roman authorities don’t know what to do with him. As Festus says, “I was at a loss how to investigate this controversy.” (Acts 25:20) Paul wants to go to Rome, and that’s why he appeals to Caesar.
The sufferings and injustices that Paul experienced are still being inflicted upon people today. Our Lord experienced them, too. It seems to be part of the human experience. What are your sufferings? What injustices have you gone through? Take courage. Sufferings are redemptive. Injustices will be repaid.
Reflection by Br. Luke Kral, OSB