Chapter 20 of Acts contains one of its most beautiful sections, says Francis, including a reminder to do a daily examen of conscience
Pope Francis says that one of the most beautiful passages of the Acts of the Apostles is when St. Paul bids farewell to the priests of Ephesus, and he suggests that we read the passage in Chapter 20 as a way of understanding “how priests today must take leave, and also how all Christians should take leave. It is a beautiful page.”
Specifically, the pope stressed the phrase “take heed to yourself and to all the flock,” which Paul offers as a warning, saying that wolves will try to destroy the Gospel message.
For Pope Francis, this is a reminder of the importance of the daily examination of conscience.
This is the job of the pastor: to keep vigil, to watch over himself and his flock. The pastor must keep watch, the parish priest must keep vigil, keep watch, priests must keep watch, bishops, the pope must keep watch. Keeping vigil to guard the flock, and also to keep watch over oneself, examine one’s conscience and see how one fulfils this duty to keep vigil.
The daily examen of conscience is a characteristic element of the spirituality of the pope’s spiritual family, the Society of Jesus, or the Jesuits. He has often stressed how important the examen is for our spiritual life.
To take Pope Francis’ advice, here is the text of Paul’s farewell:
And from Mile′tus he sent to Ephesus and called to him the elders of the church. And when they came to him, he said to them:
You yourselves know how I lived among you all the time from the first day that I set foot in Asia,
serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials
which befell me through the plots of the Jews; how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance to God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. And now, behold,
I am going to Jerusalem, bound in the Spirit, not knowing what shall befall me there
except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may accomplish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. And now, behold, I know that all you among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom will see my face no more. Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all of you, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.
Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock
in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God which he obtained with the blood of his own Son. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them.
Therefore be alert
remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears. And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. I coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel. You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities, and to those who were with me. In all things
I have shown you that by so toiling one must help the weak
remembering the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
And when he had spoken thus, he knelt down and prayed with them all. And they all wept and embraced Paul and kissed him, sorrowing most of all because of the word he had spoken, that they should see his face no more. And they brought him to the ship.