Tuesday, May 10, 2016


Homily for May 11th, 2016: Acts 20:28-38.

          Today’s first reading portrays Paul’s farewell to the Christian community at Ephesus. Paul’s words are addressed to “the presbyters of the Church of Ephesus.” “Presbyter” is a Greek word which means “elder.” It is still today the proper title of a man who has been ordained to the Church’s priesthood. I am technically not a priest in the full sense. I am a presbyter. The fullness of priesthood is given only to presbyters who are ordained bishops. Paul, therefore, is addressing the elders of the Church at Ephesus; their priests, we would say today.

“Keep watch over yourselves,” he tells them, “and over the whole flock of which the Holy Spirit has appointed you overseers, in which you tend the Church of God that he acquired with his own Blood.” Enemies will come, he warns them, to pervert the truth. Paul reminds them of all he had done for them during his three years with them. Paul was a worker-priest, and proud of it. He never took a salary. That is what he is referring to when he says: “You know that these very hands have served my needs and my companions.”

Then comes a reference to some words of Jesus that we don’t find in the gospels, only here. The gospels had not yet been written. The words and work of Jesus were already being handed on orally. Paul reminds them of a saying obviously well known at Ephesus: “Keep in mind the words of the Lord Jesus who himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” The Greek word Paul uses for “blessed” also means “happy.”

If a long life has taught me anything, it is this. At the end of the day there are two kinds of people: givers and takers. Which are you? If you are a taker, I’ll promise you one thing: you will always be frustrated and unhappy, because you will never get enough.

It is only the givers who are truly happy. The person who has never discovered that is poor indeed, no matter how large the size of his or her house, bank account, or stock portfolio.  “Give, and it shall be given to you,” Jesus says in Luke’s gospel. “Good measure pressed down, shaken together, running over, will they pour into the fold of your garment. For the measure you measure with will be measured back to you.” (6:38)

Think about those words. Better still, pray about them.