bible blog 159

This blog follows the daily bible readings of the Catholic Church

Reading 1,  Acts 25:13b-21

13 Some days later King Agrippa and Bernice arrived in Caesarea and paid their respects to Festus. 14 Their visit lasted several days, and Festus put Paul’s case before the king, saying, ‘There is a man here whom Felix left behind in custody, 15 and while I was in Jerusalem the chief priests and elders of the Jews laid information against him, demanding his condemnation. 16 But I told them that Romans are not in the habit of surrendering any man, until the accused confronts his accusers and is given an opportunity to defend himself against the charge. 17 So they came here with me, and I wasted no time but took my seat on the tribunal the very next day and had the man brought in. 18 When confronted with him, his accusers did not charge him with any of the crimes I had expected; 19 but they had some argument or other with him about their own religion and about a dead man called Jesus whom Paul alleged to be alive. 20 Not feeling qualified to deal with questions of this sort, I asked him if he would be willing to go to Jerusalem to be tried there on this issue. 21 But Paul put in an appeal for his case to be reserved for the judgement of the emperor, so I ordered him to be remanded until I could send him to Caesar.’

Luke is writing for a church that knew the outcome of Paul’s life: death in a Roman persecution. Clearly that’s not good news for a Christian community struggling to become a permitted religion in the empire. Luke’s tactic is to compose his history emphasising Paul’s innocence of any political motive, and to present Roman officials as having recognised this. Only the Jews are trouble-makers.

We could call this propaganda, but maybe Luke was writing to protect the lives of believers within an aggressively propagandist empire. He was not to know that the eventually Christians would rule the empire.

Gospel, John 21:15-19

15 When they had eaten, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these others do?’ He answered, ‘Yes, Lord, you know I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’

16 A second time he said to him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ He replied, ‘Yes, Lord, you know I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Look after my sheep.’

17 Then he said to him a third time, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ Peter was hurt that he asked him a third time, ‘Do you love me?’ and said, ‘Lord, you know everything; you know I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep. 18 In all truth I tell you, when you were young you put on your own belt and walked where you liked; but when you grow old you will stretch out your hands, and somebody else will put a belt round you and take you where you would rather not go.’

19 In these words he indicated the kind of death by which Peter would give glory to God. After this he said, ‘Follow me.’

John wants the reader to know that Peter’s threefold denial of Jesus was forgiven by a threefold examination of his love for Jesus. Love for the risen Lord is expressed by feeding his sheep. In John’s gospel the term sheep has sacrificial overtones. Sheep are God’s persecuted witnesses, and only those prepared for suffering can “feed” them, that is, by their own witness.

Who loves Jesus and who feeds his sheep?

In Malawi two young homosexual men who decided, in a hostile society, to make public their love for each other, and thus to witness to the power of love, have been condemned and imprisoned by the thugs of righteousness, amongst whom must be numbered millions of Christians in Malawi and throughout the world. Who loves Jesus and who is feeding his sheep?

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