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The Everyday Prayer


 
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Icon of the Holy Face
Church of Sant'Egidio, Rome

Memory of Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus. Memory also of Ananias who baptized Paul, preached the Gospel and died a martyr. Memory of John XXIII who announces the decision to celebrate the Second Ecumenical Vatican Council. Today the week of prayer for the unity of Christians ends. Prayer for the unity of the Churches. Particular memory of Christian communities in Asia and Oceania.


Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The Spirit of the Lord is upon you.
The child you shall bear will be holy.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Acts 9, 1-22

Meanwhile Saul was still breathing threats to slaughter the Lord's disciples. He went to the high priest

and asked for letters addressed to the synagogues in Damascus, that would authorise him to arrest and take to Jerusalem any followers of the Way, men or women, that he might find.

It happened that while he was travelling to Damascus and approaching the city, suddenly a light from heaven shone all round him.

He fell to the ground, and then he heard a voice saying, 'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?'

'Who are you, Lord?' he asked, and the answer came, 'I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.

Get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you are to do.'

The men travelling with Saul stood there speechless, for though they heard the voice they could see no one.

Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing at all, and they had to lead him into Damascus by the hand.

For three days he was without his sight and took neither food nor drink.

There was a disciple in Damascus called Ananias, and he had a vision in which the Lord said to him, 'Ananias!' When he replied, 'Here I am, Lord,'

the Lord said, 'Get up and go to Straight Street and ask at the house of Judas for someone called Saul, who comes from Tarsus. At this moment he is praying,

and has seen a man called Ananias coming in and laying hands on him to give him back his sight.'

But in response, Ananias said, 'Lord, I have heard from many people about this man and all the harm he has been doing to your holy people in Jerusalem.

He has come here with a warrant from the chief priests to arrest everybody who invokes your name.'

The Lord replied, 'Go, for this man is my chosen instrument to bring my name before gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel;

I myself will show him how much he must suffer for my name.'

Then Ananias went. He entered the house, and laid his hands on Saul and said, 'Brother Saul, I have been sent by the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your way here, so that you may recover your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.'

It was as though scales fell away from his eyes and immediately he was able to see again. So he got up and was baptised,

and after taking some food he regained his strength. After he had spent only a few days with the disciples in Damascus,

he began preaching in the synagogues, 'Jesus is the Son of God.'

All his hearers were amazed, and said, 'Surely, this is the man who did such damage in Jerusalem to the people who invoke this name, and who came here for the sole purpose of arresting them to have them tried by the chief priests?'

Saul's power increased steadily, and he was able to throw the Jewish colony at Damascus into complete confusion by the way he demonstrated that Jesus was the Christ.

 

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Look down, O Lord, on your servants.
Be it unto us according to your word.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Today the Church remembers the conversion of Paul from Tarsus, an event that marked Christian history in a unique way. Saul, carrying the letters from the High Priest, has been persecuting the Christians in Damascus with the utmost rigour. While Paul was approaching the city, a light suddenly surrounded him; blinded, he fell on the ground and heard a voice calling him twice by name: "Saul, Saul." He did not see anything; he only heard a voice that called him by name. The fact of being called by name is in certain moments a decisive and unforgettable experience. Bewildered, Saul asked: "Who are you, Lord?" The answer came: "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting." We do not know what Paul’s first thought was; certainly he may have thought that you cannot persecute a dead person; evidently, Jesus was alive. He got up but he could not see anything; taken by hand by his companions, astonished at what had happened, Paul went to Damascus as Jesus’ voice had ordered him. What happened to Paul? It was not a matter, as it is generally thought, of a conversion from one religion to another: the Christian group was still entirely within Judaism and nobody was thinking of another religion. It was a much deeper event for Paul, an event that radically changed him; it was a true rebirth. This is why Paul’s fall is one of those emblematic episodes that question the life of each person, as if to say that if "we do not fall", if "we do not touch the ground," we will hardly understand what it means to live. We are all too used to being strong by ourselves, to insist on relying solely on ourselves. Not only do we not fall on the ground, we do not even look down, towards the sorrow of others. In truth, each of us is a poor man or a poor woman. Only when we acknowledge our poverty can we take the way of wisdom. Indeed, pride brings us to ruin, to clash with others, and to violence. On the contrary, humility generates us anew, makes us more understanding, more in solidarity with others, more human. Paul’s fall is assigned for all, for those who believe and for those who do not, for it makes all more human. Paul, fallen from his own self, welcomed the Gospel and became a universal man. His preaching overcame not only the ethnic Jewish borders, but also any border. The words of the risen Jesus to the Eleven: "Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation" became the gist of Paul’s mission. "Woe to me if I do not evangelise." Paul wrote to the Corinthians and he went to preach the Gospel till the ends of the earth. And everywhere, his proclamation was confirmed by wonders and if he took in his hand some snakes, like it happened in Malta, he was not affected by it. Even today Paul asks each of us to understand the primacy of evangelisation to make Christian communities new.


01/25/2011
Memory of the Mother of the Lord


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27
Sunday, 27 November
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