“I asked if he were willing to go to Jerusalem and there stand trial on these charges. And when Paul appealed that he be held in custody for the Emperor's decision, I ordered him held until I could send him to Caesar."
Moments before his Ascension, Saint Luke tells us in Acts 1, Jesus commanded his disciples to carry the Gospel to the ends of the earth. Because “all roads lead to Rome” the narrative would have to end in the center of the Earth, Rome. So when Paul was offered free passage to the capital he grabbed at the chance, even if it meant wearing the costume and manacles of a criminal.
“Perfect!” he might have cried as arrangements were made. Should the ambassador of the Crucified Christ arrive in Rome like Queen Cleopatra, with gaudy banners and blaring trumpets? If the resurrection of Jesus was quiet and largely unnoticed by the authorities of this world, the Gospel’s coming to Rome should also be without fanfare.
After the Second Vatican Council the Catholic Church began to shed some of its outlandish costume. Pope Paul VI sold his “triple crown” and gave the proceeds to the poor. Saint John Paul II would not ride on a papal litter or palanquin carried by several stout men. Pope Francis prefers to ride in a used 1984 Renault. He has also disciplined some bishops and cardinals whose ostentatious lifestyles were causing scandal.
Success by the world’s standards rarely serves the gospel, and is a poor measure of human worth. How many people have taken great delight in watching successful preachers fail like stars from the sky? Some of these amused watchers were enemies of the gospel, others were friends. (We do agree on some things!) The evangelist who measures success and self-worth by the rungs of upward mobility misrepresents the Message of Truth.
So our man Paul didn’t mind transport by prison ship to the center of the Earth. Given his Roman citizenship, intelligence and affectionate personality he soon found friends and supporters among the sailors. Except for the storm at sea and subsequent shipwreck, it was not a difficult trip.
As we approach the end of the Easter Season and the last reading of the Acts of the Apostles we should ask the Lord to give us the same lighthearted, cheerful spirit of Saint Luke's books. The victory of salvation has been won! So long as our aims are the Lord's we fear neither failure nor disappointment. Everything is in God's hands and. as Julian of Norwich said, "All will be well, and all will be well, and all manner of things will be well."