Reading 1 (ACTS 22:30; 23:6-11)

A reading from the Acts of the Apostles

Wishing to determine the truth
about why Paul was being accused by the Jews,
the commander freed him
and ordered the chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin to convene.
Then he brought Paul down and made him stand before them.

Paul was aware that some were Sadducees and some Pharisees,
so he called out before the Sanhedrin,
“My brothers, I am a Pharisee, the son of Pharisees;
I am on trial for hope in the resurrection of the dead.”
When he said this,
a dispute broke out between the Pharisees and Sadducees,
and the group became divided.
For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection
or angels or spirits,
while the Pharisees acknowledge all three.
A great uproar occurred,
and some scribes belonging to the Pharisee party
stood up and sharply argued,
“We find nothing wrong with this man.
Suppose a spirit or an angel has spoken to him?”
The dispute was so serious that the commander,
afraid that Paul would be torn to pieces by them,
ordered his troops to go down and rescue Paul from their midst
and take him 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.”

– The word of the Lord.

Responsorial Psalm (PSALM 16:1-2A AND 5, 7-8, 9-10, 11)

R.(1) Keep me safe, O God; you are my hope.
R. Alleluia.
Keep me, O God, for in you I take refuge;
I say to the LORD, “My Lord are you.”
O LORD, my allotted portion and my cup,
you it is who hold fast my lot. 
R. Keep me safe, O God; you are my hope.
R. Alleluia.
I bless the LORD who counsels me;
even in the night my heart exhorts me.
I set the LORD ever before me;
with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed.
R. Keep me safe, O God; you are my hope.
R. Alleluia.
Therefore my heart is glad and my soul rejoices,
my body, too, abides in confidence;
Because you will not abandon my soul to the nether world,
nor will you suffer your faithful one to undergo corruption.
R. Keep me safe, O God; you are my hope.
R. Alleluia.
You will show me the path to life,
fullness of joys in your presence,
the delights at your right hand forever.
R. Keep me safe, O God; you are my hope.
R. Alleluia.

Alleluia (JOHN 17:21)

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
May they all be one as you, Father, are in me and I in you,
that the world may believe that you sent me, says the Lord.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel (JOHN 17:20-26)

A reading from the Holy Gospel according to John

Lifting up his eyes to heaven, Jesus prayed saying:
“I pray not only for these,
but also for those who will believe in me through their word,
so that they may all be one,
as you, Father, are in me and I in you,
that they also may be in us,
that the world may believe that you sent me.
And I have given them the glory you gave me,
so that they may be one, as we are one,
I in them and you in me,
that they may be brought to perfection as one,
that the world may know that you sent me,
and that you loved them even as you loved me.
Father, they are your gift to me.
I wish that where I am they also may be with me,
that they may see my glory that you gave me,
because you loved me before the foundation of the world.
Righteous Father, the world also does not know you,
but I know you, and they know that you sent me.
I made known to them your name and I will make it known,
that the love with which you loved me
may be in them and I in them.”

– The Gospel of the Lord.

Reflection: In the First Reading (Acts 22:30; 23:6-11), Saint Paul has been seized by the Jews in Jerusalem, but has been saved and protected by the commanding officer. Then as he stands before the custody of the Jewish leaders, he professes himself to be a former Pharisee in awaiting the resurrection from the dead. This caused division among the groups, for the Sadducees do not believe in the resurrection nor in living creatures like angels and spirits. This leads to the conclusion of some scribes that no fault has been found in Paul. Since there has been an outbreak with dispute among each Jewish leader, the commander has been destined to protect the Apostle, even the Lord was with Paul. The division of the Pharisees and Sadducees during the Apostle’s time even during Christ’s time shows how their practice of Judaism couldn’t be united because of difference in doctrines. But we can see here the courage of Saint Paul to stand by the teachings of our Lord Jesus. 
In the Gospel (John 17:20-26), Jesus ends his High Priestly Prayer by praying for unity of his disciples. Nowadays, there are many Christian denominations and other religions. In his encyclical ‘Ut Unum Sint,’ Saint John Paul II said: “The courageous witness of so many martyrs of our century, including members of Churches and Ecclesial Communities not in full communion with the Catholic Church, gives new vigour to the Council’s call and reminds us of our duty to listen to and put into practice its exhortation. These brothers and sisters of ours, united in the selfless offering of their lives for the Kingdom of God, are the most powerful proof that every factor of division can be transcended and overcome in the total gift of self for the sake of the Gospel” (UUS, 1). That is why the Second Vatican Council is called ecumenical because it engages in interreligious dialogue with other faiths such as Orthodox and Protestants. Despite so many beliefs we have, we are called as brothers and sisters in the Lord. We have to respect each and every one’s religion/belief, yet we need to stand for the truth that Christ has taught us especially when attacks and criticisms come about. Nowadays, there are many people attacking one religion/denomination. Mostly, the Church, her leaders, priests, and doctrines are being attacked. Yet Jesus’ words will always remain true: “The gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18b). And he calls us to love one another, just as the Father loved him and he loved us. So as we journey down the end of this Easter road, let us be united with one another despite their beliefs, doctrines, and religion/denomination through love and respect. And we hope that most/all our separated brethren may someday return to the Church, the sheepfold of Christ the Good Shepherd through the dedication and service of our pastors and us as well.

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