We conclude today the catechesis on the Acts of the Apostles with Saint Paul’s last missionary stage, namely, Rome (Cf. Acts 28:14).
Paul’s journey, which was one with that of the Gospel, is the proof that men’s routes, if lived in faith, can become areas of transit of God’s salvation, through the Word of the faith, which is an active ferment in history, capable of transforming situations and of opening ever new ways. The account of the Acts of the Apostles ends with Paul’s arrival in the heart of the Empire, which doesn’t close with Paul’s martyrdom, but with the abundant sowing of the Word. The end of Luke’s account pivoted on the Gospel’s journey in the world, contains and recapitulates all the dynamism of the Word of God, unstoppable Word that wants to run to communicate salvation to all.
At Rome, Paul met first of all his brothers in Christ, who received him and infused courage in him (Cf. Acts 28:15), and whose warm hospitality lets one think how much his arrival was awaited and desired. Then he was allowed to stay by himself under military guard, namely, with a soldier that guarded him. He was in house arrest. Despite his condition of prisoner, Paul could meet with the Jewish leaders to explain why he was forced to appeal to Caesar and to speak to them of the Kingdom of God. He sought to convince them in regard to Jesus, starting from the Scriptures and showing the continuity between the novelty of Christ and the “hope of Israel” (Acts 28:20) Paul acknowledges himself profoundly Jewish and he sees in the Gospel he preaches, namely, in the proclamation of Christ dead and risen, the fulfillment of the promises made to the Chosen People.
After this first informal meeting, which finds the Jews well disposed, a more official one follows during which, for a whole day, Paul proclaims the Kingdom of God and tries to open his interlocutors to faith in Jesus, beginning “from the law of Moses and from the Prophets” (Acts 28:23). As not all of them were convinced, he laments the hardness of heart of the People of God, cause of their condemnation (Cf. Isaiah 6:9-10), and celebrates passionately the salvation of the nations that, instead, show themselves sensitive to God and capable of listening to the Word of the Gospel of life (Cf. Acts 28:28).
At this point of the narrative, Luke concludes his work showing us not Paul’s death but the dynamism of his preaching, of a Word that “is not fettered” (2 Timothy 2:9) – Paul doesn’t have the freedom to move but he is free to speak because the Word isn’t chained — it’s a Word ready to let itself be sown with full hands by the Apostle. Paul does so “quite openly and unhindered” (Acts 28:31), in a house where he receives all those that want to receive the proclamation of the Kingdom of God and know Christ. This house, open to all searching hearts, is the image of the Church that, although persecuted, misunderstood and chained, never tires of receiving every man and every woman with a maternal heart, to proclaim to them the love of the Father who made Himself visible in Jesus.
Dear brothers and sisters, at the end of this itinerary, lived together following the course of the Gospel in the world, may the Spirit revive in each one of us the call to be courageous and joyful evangelizers. May He also make us capable, as Paul, to permeate our homes with the Gospel and make them cenacles of fraternity, where the living Christ is received, who “comes to meet us in every man and in every time” (Cf. Preface of Advent).
I greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s Audience, especially the groups from Belgium, Korea, Australia and the United States of America. In this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, I offer a special greeting to the students from the Bossey Ecumenical Institute. I also greet the priests of the Institute for Continuing Theological Education of the Pontifical North American College. Upon all of you and your families, I invoke the joy and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ. May God bless you!