Monday, 25 January 2021 : Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle, marking the momentous event when the great enemy of the Church and the faithful, Saul the young Pharisee turned towards God and became a convert, and eventually becoming one of the greatest champions and defenders of the Christian faith against all the threats rising up that time against the followers of the Lord.

Saul was a young and zealous Pharisee who was deeply involved in the persecutions of early Christians, and he was present at the moment when St. Stephen was martyred and stoned to death. He was also instrumental in leading the efforts of the Sanhedrin or the Jewish High Council in their attempts to destroy the Church and the followers of Christ in its earliest moments. Saul went from place to place and carried out often violent attacks and arrests against the followers of the Lord.

Therefore, it was most unlikely and unexpected for Saul to be called by God, and yet, God called him and spoke to him as he was on his way to Damascus to arrest the Christian faithful and destroy the Church there. The Lord revealed Himself to Saul and spoke of how his actions had been misled and mistaken. Saul turned towards the Lord and was baptised as a Christian. And from then on henceforth, he became a courageous and faithful defender of the faith and worked hard to bring the Good News of God to all the peoples.

That was how St. Paul the Apostle came to be. Much like Simon being called by the Lord and was bestowed the new name of Peter (the ‘Rock’) by the Lord, and even earlier on, as Abram, the father of many nations, upon his making of a Covenant with God, became Abraham, thus the change in name from Saul to Paul also signified this change in attitude and life, from one that was filled with wickedness and misguided anger against the Lord and His faithful, to one that is guided and entrusted fully to God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we celebrate this Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle, we are all called to reflect on our own conversion. For all of us, we have been baptised and therefore called to share in the same ministry and calling that St. Paul himself had received from the Lord. All of us are partakers of this same calling and ministry as those who have gone before us and responded to the Lord’s call, in being His faithful witnesses and in standing up for their faith in Him.

As we can see how this terrible and most unworthy sinner, who had caused so much grief and suffering for the early Christians, could be converted and turned to the path of righteousness, becoming one of the greatest champions of the faith, thus, all of us we are also able to respond to the Lord’s call and be transformed by His power and love, His grace and mercy to be true witnesses and as faithful servants of His cause. Through the Lord, everything is made possible, and we can indeed be strengthened in all things through Him.

Are we then willing to take up our crosses and follow our Lord, brothers and sisters in Christ? Indeed, we have been called by the Lord, but it is really up to us to accept this calling and respond to Him. If we are willing to respond to Him just as St. Paul had done then we will be just like him and the other Apostles, as the true and faithful bearers of our Christian faith in the midst of our communities in this darkened world.

Brothers and sisters, let us all open our hearts and minds, and allow the Lord to enter into our lives, and allow Him to transform us and work His wonders through us that all of us may carry out His will obediently and bring about many good things for everyone all around us, that more and more people may come to know the Lord to us, be called to the same faith we have, and be saved.

Let us all faithfully continue all the good works that the Apostles and their successors had begun, and let us all contribute to the best of our abilities, to the good works of the Church in proclaiming the truth of the Gospels, the Good News of salvation and the eternal life in Christ. May all of us draw ever closer to the Lord and may God strengthen us all in faith, as we continue journeying through life, now and always. Amen.

Monday, 25 January 2021 : 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.”

Monday, 25 January 2021 : 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.

Monday, 25 January 2021 : 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.