Memory of the Saints and the Prophets

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Memorial of Paul's conversion on the road to Damascus. Memory also of Ananias, who baptized Paul, preached the Gospel and died a martyr. Today the week of prayer for the unity of Christians ends. Particular memory of Christian communities in Asia and Oceania.


Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

You are a chosen race,
a royal priesthood, a holy nation,
a people acquired by God
to proclaim his marvellous works.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Acts 22,3-16

'I am a Jew', Paul said, 'and was born at Tarsus in Cilicia. I was brought up here in this city. It was under Gamaliel that I studied and was taught the exact observance of the Law of our ancestors. In fact, I was as full of duty towards God as you all are today. I even persecuted this Way to the death and sent women as well as men to prison in chains as the high priest and the whole council of elders can testify. I even received letters from them to the brothers in Damascus, which I took with me when I set off to bring prisoners back from there to Jerusalem for punishment. 'It happened that I was on that journey and nearly at Damascus when in the middle of the day a bright light from heaven suddenly shone round me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?" I answered, "Who are you, Lord?" and he said to me, "I am Jesus the Nazarene, whom you are persecuting." The people with me saw the light but did not hear the voice which spoke to me. I said, "What am I to do, Lord?" The Lord answered, "Get up and go into Damascus, and there you will be told what you have been appointed to do." Since the light had been so dazzling that I was blind, I got to Damascus only because my companions led me by the hand. 'Someone called Ananias, a devout follower of the Law and highly thought of by all the Jews living there, came to see me; he stood beside me and said, "Brother Saul, receive your sight." Instantly my sight came back and I was able to see him. Then he said, "The God of our ancestors has chosen you to know his will, to see the Upright One and hear his own voice speaking, because you are to be his witness before all humanity, testifying to what you have seen and heard. And now why delay? Hurry and be baptised and wash away your sins, calling on his name."

 

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

You will be holy,
because I am holy, thus says the Lord.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Paul's conversion is one of the best-known episodes in the New Testament. To underline its importance, Luke recounts three times how Paul changed his life and was made a witness of the risen Jesus, an apostle of the Word. But what then does it mean to commemorate a conversion? Of a change? We often find ourselves men and women of habits, change frightens us. We are bound to the present, and we must recognise that the uncertain situation of our world makes us restless before the future. But in reality, the very story of Paul, speaks to us of the extraordinary power of the Gospel, which changes the heart and continues to change it, which does not resign itself to what we are, and which always prepares us for the future. Paul, or rather "Saul" the name he had before his conversion, was a strong, authoritative man, as he himself would say, "fierce in tradition," that is to say, one who drew strength from his convictions, from his ideas. In the encounter with Jesus, in that fall on the road to Damascus, he experiences limitation, fragility, the need of others. Conversion, change, is never the consequence of an event alone, but is a process. And it is beautiful that Paul discovers Jesus whom he was persecuting, through the community of Damascus. Paul does not convert alone, he needs a community to accompany him, brothers like Ananias who welcome him and help him; it is there that the apostle will understand a great truth that he will later communicate to us in the Letter to the Corinthians: "It is when I am weak that then I am strong." That is, in weakness, which so often frightens us and which we want to push away, there is the strength through which we can experience the power of the Word of God that generates hope, friendship, solidarity, and all those signs that accompany those who live and proclaim this Word.