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The Everyday Prayer

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

Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

This is the Gospel of the poor,
liberation for the imprisoned,
sight for the blind,
freedom for the oppressed.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Acts 9,1-20

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.'


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The Son of Man came to serve,
whoever wants to be great
should become servant of all.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Paul’s conversion is one of the most famous episodes of the New Testament. In order to underline its importance, the author of Acts reports how Paul was "turned upside down" and made a witness of the risen Jesus three times. With letters from the high priest in hand, Saul - that is his name - is determined to move against the Christians of Damascus with the utmost severity. As he draws near to the city, he is suddenly surrounded by a beam of light. Blinded, he falls from his horse and hears a voice, which twice calls him by name: "Saul, Saul." He does not see anyone; he only hears the voice calling him. Something similar happened to Moses at the burning bush. Sometimes being called by name can be a decisive and unforgettable experience. Bewildered by all that is happening, Saul asks, "Who are you, Lord?" "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting," he is told. "I am": the same words that Moses heard. Jesus is alive. Saul gets up but can see nothing; led by the hand by one of his companions, he goes into Damascus just as Jesus’ voice had commanded. What had happened to him? The apostle had a very profound experience, and it had changed him radically. It had been a real and complete rebirth. What happened to Saul, in truth, impacts every believer: we do not fall to the ground from our pride and in the process discover our weakness. We have difficulty understanding what it means to believe. Only by recognizing our poverty can we welcome the light of the Gospel’s wisdom. Pride leads to destruction, confrontation, and violence; humility renews and makes us more understanding and more sympathetic to the needs of others. It is not an accident that the future apostle was "led...by the hand" into Damascus, where, guided by Ananias, he was baptized after three days of darkness and began a new life. Saul became Paul, a new name for a new life. The visitor who enters Damascus today through the Thomas gate - despite the tragedy that his city is currently experiencing - almost immediately finds him or herself at the beginning of the Via Recta, (n.o.t. the straight street), the principle road of the ancient city. This is the street spoken about in Acts. An ancient tradition says that the house of Ananias, where Paul was taken as soon as he arrived in the city, was located in this area. The author tells of Ananias’ initial fear and his amazement at hearing about the arrival of Paul whom he had considered one of the sworn enemies of the young Christian community. But, warned by the Spirit, as soon as he sees Saul he goes to meet him and says, "Brother Saul." For Ananias, Saul from Tarsus is no longer an enemy, but a brother. And the repentant persecutor regains his sight. Christians, for him, are now brothers and sisters. The pride and violence that had possessed his heart had blinded him. The Lord transformed him. Even though Paul had encountered the risen Jesus "personally," he now needs a brother to help him open his eyes fully. Ananias welcomes him, explains the Scriptures to him, and introduces him to the life of the community. Every time the Word of God is proclaimed to us in a community of brothers and sisters, we are called by name, that is, we are encouraged to make the Word that has been revealed to us our own. It is a personal and free experience, just as personal and free as the response, but it can only happen in the context of a community. The Gospel changes lives because it saves people from their radical loneliness and puts them in the community of the Risen One.

Memory of Jesus crucified

Calendar of the week
Sunday, 22 October
Liturgy of the Sunday
Monday, 23 October
Memory of the Poor
Tuesday, 24 October
Memory of the Mother of the Lord
Wednesday, 25 October
Memory of the Saints and the Prophets
Thursday, 26 October
Memory of the Church
Friday, 27 October
Memory of Jesus crucified
Saturday, 28 October
Memory of the Apostles
Sunday, 29 October
Liturgy of the Sunday