Sunday Vigil

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Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Whoever lives and believes in me
will never die.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Acts 16,1-10

From there he went to Derbe, and then on to Lystra, where there was a disciple called Timothy, whose mother was Jewish and had become a believer; but his father was a Greek. The brothers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him, and Paul, who wanted to have him as a travelling companion, had him circumcised. This was on account of the Jews in the locality where everyone knew his father was a Greek. As they visited one town after another, they passed on the decisions reached by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem, with instructions to observe them. So the churches grew strong in the faith, as well as growing daily in numbers. They travelled through Phrygia and the Galatian country, because they had been told by the Holy Spirit not to preach the word in Asia. When they reached the frontier of Mysia they tried to go into Bithynia, but as the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them, they went through Mysia and came down to Troas. One night Paul had a vision: a Macedonian appeared and kept urging him in these words, 'Come across to Macedonia and help us.' Once he had seen this vision we lost no time in arranging a passage to Macedonia, convinced that God had called us to bring them the good news.

 

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

If you believe, you will see the glory of God,
thus says the Lord.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Chapter 16 of Acts starts with the important meeting of Paul with Timothy, among his most faithful co-operators. He was the son of a mixed couple, his mother a Jew who converted to Christianity and his father a non-Jew. Paul, wishing to make him his collaborator, preferred to have him circumcised so that he could overcome any obstacle with the Jews. It was a gesture of pastoral prudence so that the preaching would be more effective. And, in fact, "the Churches were strengthened in the faith and increased in number daily," as Luke notes. But it is always the Spirit that guides the mission. Indeed Paul receives at night the vision of a Macedonian man who entreats him, saying: "Come over to Macedonia and help us!" This vision pushes the Word of God beyond the borders of Asia and into Europe. It is a "vision" that widens his gaze and makes him "see" the many who still need salvation. Certainly, there is in the apostle a continuous restlessness to announce the Gospel to all, but there is a need to be guided by new visions that the Spirit himself suggests. We could say that this is the sense of reading the "signs of the times" of which Pope John XXIII spoke. On that night Paul understood that he had to go beyond the usual boundaries. It was a question of entering even more intelligently and deeply into the needs of the men and women of the world at that time. The Gospel had to be preached in Europe as well. I believe that cry for help remains strong even today: it rises both from the countries of Eastern Europe, which were formerly oppressed behind the Iron Curtain and today are disappointed and abandoned by a consumerist society, but it also rises from opulent Europe: it is the voice of the millions of abandoned poor and of the rich who have lost the values on which it was long founded. The Christian Churches of Europe, as Paul did on that night, must also listen to the cry for help of the poor countries, of those oppressed by violence and war, especially the peoples of the South of the world. Paul's passage from the East to the West invites everyone, and especially the rich countries, not to be deaf to the many "Macedonians" of the world who continue to cry out: "Come over to us and help us!"