Friday, 25 January 2019 : Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Mark 16 : 15-18

At that time, Jesus told His disciples, “Go out to the whole world and proclaim the Good News to all creation. The one who believes and is baptised will be saved; the one who refuses to believe will be condemned.”

“Signs like these will accompany those who have believed : in My Name they will cast out demons and speak new languages; they will pick up snakes, and if they drink anything poisonous, they will be unharmed; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will be healed.”

Friday, 25 January 2019 : Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 116 : 1, 2

Alleluia! Praise YHVH, all you nations; all you peoples, praise Him.

How great is His love for us! His faithfulness lasts forever.

Friday, 25 January 2019 : Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 22 : 3-16

Paul spoke to the Jews in Jerusalem, “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up here, in this city, where I was educated in the school of Gamaliel, according to the strict observance of our law. And I was dedicated to God’s service, as are all of you today. As for this Way, I persecuted it to the point of death and arrested its followers, both men and women, throwing them into prison.”

“The High Priest and the whole Council of elders can bear witness to this. From them, I received letters for the Jewish brothers in Damascus; and I set out to arrest those who were there, and bring them back to Jerusalem for punishment. But, as I was travelling along, nearing Damascus, at about noon, a great light from the sky suddenly flashed about me.”

“I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me : ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?’ I answered, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And He said to me : ‘I am Jesus, the Nazorean, Whom you persecute.’ The men who were with me saw the light, but they did not understand the voice of the One Who was speaking to me. I asked : ‘What shall I do, Lord?’”

“And the Lord replied : ‘Get up and go to Damascus; there, you will be told all that you are destined to do.’ Yet, the brightness of that light had blinded me; and so, I was led by the hand into Damascus by my companions. There, a certain Ananias came to me. He was a devout observer of the law, and well spoken of by all the Jews who were living there.”

“As he stood by me, he said : ‘Brother Saul, recover your sight.’ At that moment, I could see; and I looked at him. He, then, said, ‘The God of our ancestors has chosen you to know His will, to see the Just One, and to hear the words from His mouth. From now on, you shall be His witness before all the pagan people, and tell them all that you have seen and heard.’”

“‘And now, why delay? Get up and be baptised, and have your sins washed away, by calling upon His Name.’”

Alternative reading

Acts 9 : 1-22

Meanwhile, Saul considered nothing but violence and death for the disciples of the Lord. He went to the High Priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues of Damascus that would authorise him to arrest and bring to Jerusalem, anyone he might find, man or woman, belonging to the Way.

As he travelled along and was approaching Damascus, a light from the sky suddenly flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul! Why do you persecute Me?” And he asked, “Who are You, Lord?” The voice replied, “I am Jesus, Whom you persecute. Now, get up, and go into the city; there, you will be told what you are to do.”

The men who were travelling with him stood there speechless : they had heard the sound, but could see no one. Saul got up from the ground and, opening his eyes, he could not see. They took him by the hand and brought him to Damascus. He was blind; and he did not eat or drink for three days.

There was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias, to whom the Lord called in a vision, “Ananias!” He answered, “Here I am, Lord!” Then the Lord said to him, “Go, at once, to Straight Street and ask, at the house of Judas, for a man of Tarsus named Saul. You will find him praying, for he has just seen in a vision that a man named Ananias has come in and placed his hands upon him, to restore his sight.”

Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many sources about this man, and all the harm he has done to Your saints in Jerusalem; and now, he is here, with authority from the High Priest, to arrest all who call upon Your Name.”

But the Lord said to him, “Go! This man is My chosen instrument, to bring My Name to the pagan nations and their kings, and the people of Israel as well. I, Myself, will show him how much he will have to suffer for My Name.”

So Ananias left and went to the house. He laid his hands upon Saul and said, “Saul, my brother, the Lord Jesus, Who appeared to you on your way here, has sent me to you, so that you may receive your sight, and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Immediately, something like scales fell from his eyes and he could see; he got up and was baptised. Then he took food and was strengthened.

For several days Saul stayed with the disciples at Damascus, and he soon began to proclaim in the synagogues that Jesus was the Son of God. All who heard were astonished and said, “Is this not the one who cast out, in Jerusalem, all those calling upon this Name? Did he not come here, to bring them bound before the chief priests?”

But Saul grew more and more powerful; and he confounded the Jews living in Damascus when he proved that Jesus was the Messiah.

Thursday, 24 January 2019 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Francis de Sales, Bishop and Doctor of the Church, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture speaking to us about the works that the Lord had performed among the people, fulfilling what the Lord Himself has promised to His people, that He would send upon them His salvation and deliverance, His light amidst the darkness of this world, which He fulfilled through His Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, Saviour of all mankind.

He came into this world, fulfilling the promises that God had made all of throughout history, bringing the salvation and light of hope into our midst, and what we heard in the Gospel passage today is the fulfilment of what He had promised through His prophet Isaiah, as well as many other prophets, the promise of the healing from God, where the blind would see again, the deaf would hear again, the mute would speak again, the paralytic would walk and move again, and more.

And even the evil spirits and demons recognised Who He is, the One God had sent into this world to be its Saviour. All the works that the Lord had done, all of them were possible because God Himself was behind those actions, revealing to the whole world the coming of the salvation which He has promised, and fulfilling those words He had spoken to His people earlier, the Covenant He has made and renewed with His chosen people.

And the means by which He did this, once and for all, was revealed in today’s first reading, in the passage taken from the Epistle written by St. Paul to the Hebrews. In that passage, St. Paul explained how the Lord Jesus has embraced the role of our one and true High Priest, linking to the Jewish tradition and the Torah, where the role of the priests of God were highlighted and kept to the time of Jesus. The Lord Jesus is the one and ony perfect Priest far surpassing any others.

That is because, as St. Paul explained, the priests of the time of old Israel up to the time of Jesus’ life offered the sacrificial offerings at the Temple, of the blood of animals, of lambs and goats, and others, for the temporary atonement of the sins of the people. But because the people continued to sin, again and again, disobeying God’s laws and commandments, many times, then the offerings and sacrifices need to be done frequently.

But the Lord Jesus is special unlike all the other priests, because He did not offer the offering of the blood of animals, which although have been chosen from among those that were unblemished, but those were nothing compared to the truly perfect and worthy offering of the Blood of the Lamb of God, Our Lord Jesus Himself. The Lord as our High Priest has offered Himself willingly on the altar of the cross, bearing upon Himself our many sins and wickedness, so that we may be forgiven from those sins and gain eternal life with Him.

And He is willing to go through all the pain and sufferings for this because of the great and boundless love that He has for each and every one of us. He Who created us out of love will not abandon us to destruction, but will do whatever He can do in order to save us and prevent our annihilation. That was why, He did what He had done, bearing the painful cross of suffering for the sake of our salvation.

We have seen how great the love of God is, and therefore now, it is only then right that we, as His beloved ones, should also love Him in the same manner as He has loved us. And today we should emulate the examples shown by one of the Lord’s faithful followers, St. Francis de Sales, a holy bishop and Doctor of the Church, and the founder of the Salesian religious order, whose life is truly an inspiration for each one of us on how we should live up to our faith.

St. Francis de Sales devoted much of his life to the service of God, educating the faithful through his sermons and writings, and by leading a virtuous and prayerful life, through which he convinced many to return to the true Christian faith at the time when many abandoned the Church due to the so-called ‘reformation’. He also helped to reorganise the Church clergy and structure of the local Church where he has been appointed as bishop.

St. Francis de Sales devoted his time and effort, out of the great love that he has for God and for His people, those who has been entrusted to him as their shepherd. Not only that he showed his great faith to the Lord, but even more importantly, he followed the example of Christ, in the role of priesthood that he has embraced, as the representative of the Lord among His people.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, are we then also able to love and serve the Lord as St. Francis de Sales and the many other holy men and women of God had done? Let us all do the same with our own lives, and dedicate ourselves to love the One Who has given us His all, for our salvation, that He was willing to bear the painful cross of our sins, for our sake. May we grow ever more in our love and dedication for Him, day after day, each and every days of our life, from now on. Amen.

Thursday, 24 January 2019 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Francis de Sales, Bishop and Doctor of the Church, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Mark 3 : 7-12

At that tine, Jesus and His disciples withdrew to the lakeside, and a large crowd from Galilee followed Him. A great number of people also came from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, Transjordan, and from the region of Tyre and Sidon, for they had heard of all that He was doing.

Because of the crowd, Jesus told His disciples to have a boat ready for Him, to prevent the people from crushing Him. He healed so many, that all who had diseases kept pressing towards Him to touch Him. Even the people who had evil spirits, whenever they saw Him, they would fall down before Him and cry out, “You are the Son of God.” But He warned them sternly not to tell anyone Who He was.

Thursday, 24 January 2019 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Francis de Sales, Bishop and Doctor of the Church, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 39 : 7-8a, 8b-9, 10, 17

Sacrifice and oblation You did not desire; this You had me understand. Burnt offering and sin offering You do not require. Then I said, “Here I come!”

“As the scroll says of me. To do Your will is my delight, o God, for Your law is within my heart.”

In the great assembly I have proclaimed Your saving help. My lips, o Lord, I did not seal – You know that very well.

But may all those who seek You rejoice and be glad in You; and may all who love Your saving grace continually say, “The Lord is great.”

Thursday, 24 January 2019 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Francis de Sales, Bishop and Doctor of the Church, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Hebrews 7 : 25 – Hebrews 8 : 6

Consequently Jesus is able to save for all time those who approach God through Him. He always lives to intercede on their behalf. It was fitting that our High Priest be holy, undefiled, set apart from sinners and exalted above the heavens; a Priest Who does not first need to offer sacrifice for Himself before offering for the sins of the people, as high priests do. He offered Himself in sacrifice once and for all.

And whereas the Law elected weak men as high priests, now, after the Law, the word of God with an oath appointed the Son, made perfect forever. The main point of what we are saying is that we have a High Priest. He is seated at the right hand of the Divine Majesty in heaven, where He serves as minister of the true Temple and Sanctuary, set up not by any mortal but by the Lord.

A high priest is appointed to offer to God gifts and sacrifices, and Jesus also has to offer some sacrifice. Had He remained on earth, He would not be a priest, since others offer the gifts according to the Law. In fact, the ritual celebrated by those priests is only an imitation and shadow of the heavenly sanctuary.

We know the word of God to Moses with regard to the construction of the holy tent. He said : You are to make everything according to the pattern shown to you on the mountain. Now, however, Jesus enjoys a much higher ministry in being the Mediator of a better covenant, founded on better promises.