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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

I am the good shepherd,
my sheep listen to my voice,
and they become
one flock and one fold.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Acts 26,1-32

Then Agrippa said to Paul, 'You have leave to speak on your own behalf.' And Paul held up his hand and began his defence: 'I consider myself fortunate, King Agrippa, in that it is before you I am to answer today all the charges made against me by the Jews, the more so because you are an expert in matters of custom and controversy among the Jews. So I beg you to listen to me patiently. 'My manner of life from my youth, a life spent from the beginning among my own people and in Jerusalem, is common knowledge among the Jews. They have known me for a long time and could testify, if they would, that I followed the strictest party in our religion and lived as a Pharisee. And now it is for my hope in the promise made by God to our ancestors that I am on trial, the promise that our twelve tribes, constant in worship night and day, hope to attain. For that hope, Your Majesty, I am actually put on trial by Jews! Why does it seem incredible to you that God should raise the dead? 'As for me, I once thought it was my duty to use every means to oppose the name of Jesus the Nazarene. This I did in Jerusalem; I myself threw many of God's holy people into prison, acting on authority from the chief priests, and when they were being sentenced to death I cast my vote against them. I often went round the synagogues inflicting penalties, trying in this way to force them to renounce their faith; my fury against them was so extreme that I even pursued them into foreign cities. 'On such an expedition I was going to Damascus, armed with full powers and a commission from the chief priests, and in the middle of the day as I was on my way, Your Majesty, I saw a light from heaven shining more brilliantly than the sun round me and my fellow-travellers. We all fell to the ground, and I heard a voice saying to me in Hebrew, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you, kicking against the goad. Then I said, "Who are you, Lord?" And the Lord answered, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But get up and stand on your feet, for I have appeared to you for this reason: to appoint you as my servant and as witness of this vision in which you have seen me, and of others in which I shall appear to you. I shall rescue you from the people and from the nations to whom I send you to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light, from the dominion of Satan to God, and receive, through faith in me, forgiveness of their sins and a share in the inheritance of the sanctified." 'After that, King Agrippa, I could not disobey the heavenly vision. On the contrary I started preaching, first to the people of Damascus, then to those of Jerusalem and all Judaean territory, and also to the gentiles, urging them to repent and turn to God, proving their change of heart by their deeds. This was why the Jews laid hands on me in the Temple and tried to do away with me. But I was blessed with God's help, and so I have stood firm to this day, testifying to great and small alike, saying nothing more than what the prophets and Moses himself said would happen: that the Christ was to suffer and that, as the first to rise from the dead, he was to proclaim a light for our people and for the gentiles.' He had reached this point in his defence when Festus shouted out, 'Paul, you are out of your mind; all that learning of yours is driving you mad.' But Paul answered, 'Festus, your Excellency, I am not mad: I am speaking words of sober truth and good sense. The king understands these matters, and to him I now speak fearlessly. I am confident that nothing of all this comes as a surprise to him; after all, these things were not done in a corner. King Agrippa, do you believe in the prophets? I know you do.' At this Agrippa said to Paul, 'A little more, and your arguments would make a Christian of me.' Paul replied, 'Little or much, I wish before God that not only you but all who are listening to me today would come to be as I am -- except for these chains.' At this the king rose to his feet, with the governor and Bernice and those who sat there with them. When they had retired they talked together and agreed, 'This man is doing nothing that deserves death or imprisonment.' And Agrippa remarked to Festus, 'The man could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.'


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

I give you a new commandment,
that you love one another.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Paul, still in Caesarea, finds himself before King Agrippa and here for the last time he delivers his final speech in his defence. After the usual “captatio benevolentiae” (‘catching the benevolence’ Note of the translator) he describes his life as an observant Jew, so strict that he actually persecuted Christians for their faith in the risen Jesus. But it was just on his way to imprison Christians in Damascus that he had to change his mind: after his fall from the horse, he had a vision of Jesus. Paul says that at that point not only did he stop persecuting Christians, but he also became the proponent of the same Gospel he had been fighting against. For the Gospel, he has been brought to trial after repeated threats of death. As Paul is giving his speech, the good Festus, the Roman procurator, loses his patience and interrupts him, “You are out of your mind, Paul!” Again we see the accusation of madness or, in any event, of exaggeration, addressed to the apostles on the day of Pentecost, “These people are drunk.” Even Jesus was accused of being a fool. It is true that the Gospel seems foolish. But, is not the status quo that incites wars, violence, destruction and injustice more foolish? For the common mentality, the Gospel of peace, mercy, forgiveness and love is madness. Paul, in responding politely to King Agrippa, simply states that these are crucial questions for one’s life, questions that the King, himself a Jew, can understand. The king realizes that if he agrees with Paul he would be recognizing Christianity as the fulfilment of the Scriptures, a choice he cannot make. He gets out of the situation with a joke, “Are you so quickly persuading me to become a Christian?” At this point, the debate ends even because Paul has to go to Rome to be judged. All who listened are convinced that a dreamer like Paul could never possibly merit death or chains. He is innocent but remains in chains.

Memory of the Church

Calendar of the week
Sunday, 10 December
Liturgy of the Sunday
Monday, 11 December
Memory of the Poor
Tuesday, 12 December
Memory of the Mother of the Lord
Wednesday, 13 December
Memory of the Saints and the Prophets
Thursday, 14 December
Memory of the Church
Friday, 15 December
Memory of Jesus crucified
Saturday, 16 December
Sunday Vigil
Sunday, 17 December
Liturgy of the Sunday