7th Friday of Easter Week
Acts 25:13-21; John 21:15-19
THE ROMAN MENTALITY, as manifested in today’s reading from The Acts of the Apostles, is a fascinating study. Festus describes his dealings with Saint Paul to King Agrippa, the local head of State, who was, like Festus, answerable to Rome. He sums up Paul’s teaching as maintaining that “a certain Jesus who had died . . . was alive.” This concise summary of the preaching of Saint Paul is characteristic of the Roman mind. Leaving aside all details Festus grasped the heart of the apostle’s message: the death and the resurrection of our Savior. Unlike Pilate who recognized that Jesus was being unjustly accused but yielded to angry pressure, Festus is able to be more objective, being free of the threats of an angry mob since Paul had appealed to Rome. He sought further guidance from a higher official.
As we know from the further account given in the later epistle of Paul, he realized at the end of his couple of years as a prisoner in Rome, that he was to be put to death. So strong was his loving faith in our Lord that he had already stated that to die and be with the Lord would be preferable to living on were he not needed for the salvation of others. Hidden in the infinite mystery of God’s wisdom is why he was put to death still at the height of his spiritual and mental powers when God had so often shown He could preserve him from death in the recent past.
Each of us is subject to this same profoundly hidden mystery of the time of our own time. Every day persons of all ages die, young as well as the aged, whether by infectious disease or by violence. This is the case not only in poor countries but here in our Nation as well. There is no lack of patients in the emergency rooms of our hospitals. One of the more recent specialties in medicine is “emergency medicine.”
Today’s Gospel emphasizes a feature of Jesus’ personality that shows how gently yet firmly correct and warn his chosen apostles. Peter felt increasingly the weight of our Lord’s correction and warning. He indirectly corrected Peter for denying him three times. He does so without any direct reference to Peter’s failure, simply by posing the Question “Do you love me?” three times. But then he states further that Peter will give witness to his love of the Lord by being put to death because of his fidelity to the mission given him. As we reflect of these two texts that speak of the violent deaths of both Peter and Paul, may our Eucharistic Lord strengthen each of us in our loving faith that we, like these holy apostles, prove steadfast to the end in our adherence to Our Savior.