The next day, wanting to find out what Paul was being accused of by the Jews, [the Tribune] released him and ordered the chief priests and the entire council to meet. He brought Paul down and had him stand before them.
When Paul noticed that some were Sadducees and others were Pharisees, he called out in the council, "Brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. I am on trial concerning the hope of the resurrection of the dead." When he said this, a dissension began between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. (The Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, or angel, or spirit; but the Pharisees acknowledge all three.) Then a great clamor arose, and certain scribes of the Pharisees" group stood up and contended, "We find nothing wrong with this man. What if a spirit or an angel has spoken to him?" When the dissension became violent, the tribune, fearing that they would tear Paul to pieces, ordered the soldiers to go down, take him by force, and bring him into the barracks. That night the Lord stood near him and said, "Keep up your courage! For just as you have testified for me in Jerusalem, so you must bear witness also in Rome."
Preserve me, God, I take refuge in you.
I say to the Lord: 'You are my God.'
O Lord, it is you who are my portion and cup;
it is you yourself who are my prize. (R./)
I will bless the Lord who gives me counsel,
who even at night directs my heart.
I keep the Lord ever in my sight:
since he is at my right hand, I shall stand firm. (R./)
And so my heart rejoices, my soul is glad;
even my body shall rest in safety.
For you will not leave my soul among the dead,
nor let your beloved know decay. (R./)
You will show me the path of life,
the fullness of joy in your presence,
at your right hand happiness for ever. (R./)
Jesus said to his disciples,
"I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.
"Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them."
"That they may become completely one." Jesus calls unity the most characteristic mark of his disciples, a vital goal of true faith, when he prayed: "that they may be one in us, so that the world may believe that you sent me." Yet in the Acts, Saint Paul defends himself by deliberately stirring up debate, pitting the Sadducees pitted against the Pharisees on the subject of resurrection from the dead. Wherever he went there was controversy. Paul aligned himself with the Pharisees (23:6); however, he was not always stirring up trouble but eloquently appealed for peace and unity in 1 Corinthians and in Ephesians.
On the other hand, Jesus himself could be divisive. He had put this question: "Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? - I have come for division. From now on, a household of five will be divided three against two and two against three; father will be split against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother" (Luke 12:51-53). His disciples were not united around the weak principle that nobody should ever dare hurt the feelings of anyone else, but rather around an intense desire to enable one another to seek and share the best.
Jesus urged his followers towards a shared vision of goodness, kindness, peace and justice. Basically, this unity was to be modelled upon that of the Holy Trinity. Jesus in turn will share with his disciples the glory given to him by the Father before the world began, "so that your love for me may live in them, and I may live in them." Looking at some of the barriers raised by our Church leadership, one may wonder if they remember that unity is to be sought by generous dialogue, not imposed by punitive authority. Jesus puts before us a vision that should lead us to unite around his table. It is a desire that he personally holds dear, "with I in them, and you Father in me, may their unity be complete." If we love him, we must try to make his vision a reality.
"As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Remain in my love." Jesus says this to disciples of every generation. Just as the Father's love for Jesus is unwavering, so Jesus' love for us is unwavering. What is asked of us is to remain in his love. Those priveleged to be with him at the last supper did not succeed in remaining in communion with him through the ordeal of his passion. With the exception of the Beloved Disciple, they all abandoned him. Significantly, the first question that the risen Jesus asks Peter is, "Do you love me?" giving Peter the opportunity to return to Jesus' love, coming back into communion with him. We will consider that encounter tomorrow.