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.

Friday, 25 January 2019 : 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 together the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle, remembering the moment when an unbelievable and amazing transformation of a person, who had once been a great enemy of the Church and the communities of the faithful, turned into a great defender and zealous champion of the Lord. And all of these happened to show us that no matter how great a sinner we are, God’s call is for everyone, and to those who heed to His call, He will grant the grace to be His beloved children.

St. Paul, as Saul prior to his conversion, was indeed the most unlikely person to have been called upon by the Lord, as not only that he was an enemy of the faithful, as a young member of the Pharisees, but he also led and initiated such a brutal and terrible persecution of the early Church and its members, that no one would have predicted or expected that such a complete and total turnaround of a person’s life would have been possible. But indeed, for the Lord, everything is possible.

St. Paul encountered the Lord on the way to Damascus, in the midst of his zealous persecution of Christians. He met the Lord Who showed him the truth about Who He was, and the mistakes and wrong path that he had taken all those while. St. Paul thereafter made a total turnaround in his life and became a believer of the Lord, gave himself to be baptised and the Holy Spirit came down on him, and thus, we saw how magnificent was the extent of his great conversion.

To the Apostles and the disciples, the Lord had commanded them, as we heard in our Gospel passage today, to go forth to the nations and proclaim His Good News to those people, that they too may be turned into the path of the Lord, repent from their sins and therefore, be like what St. Paul the Apostle had shown us in his conversion to the faith. In all of these, we must see just how great and wonderful is God’s love for each and every one of us, that His last and great commandment for His Church, is about our salvation.

His commandment to His Church, to go forth to the nations and to proclaim His salvation, was meant clearly to extend the grace of this salvation which He has brought into this world, to all of mankind, and not just to limit it within the nation and the people of Israel as what some among the early Christians would have thought to be the case. And St. Paul was among the most important of those whom God had chosen to be the instrument to bear witness to the truth and the salvation of God.

God called this murderous and fanatically anti-Christian Pharisee, in order to become His own disciple, and St. Paul accepted the part that he has been called into, to be God’s witness and a zealous defender of the true Christian faith, despite all the wickedness he had committed earlier in life, because of the false ways he had once followed. Through this, we can see how God is always ever merciful, even to the worst of sinners, and is calling on every one of us to repent from our sins.

But God’s works among us His people is made concrete and evident through the means of His Church, by the courageous efforts put in place by the servants and followers who had dedicated their lives and listened to His truth, as shown by the faith that St. Paul and the other Apostles and disciples, as well as those who succeeded them, through many generations and many ages, in proclaiming the Good News and bringing more and more people to the salvation in God.

Now, all of us as Christians are reminded today, of two important facts that each and every one of us must realise, in order to know better the significance of our faith, that first of all, God is ever loving and ever merciful towards us, and if He Himself has shown His mercy towards someone who had sinned so greatly and so much as St. Paul had, giving him the opportunity to serve Him anew, and to walk once again in His righteous path.

And then, secondly, each and every one of us must be aware that all of us are truly the successors of the Apostles and the disciples of the Lord, making up His Church in this world in the present day and time. And whatever works and missions that the Lord had granted and entrusted to His Church, thus the same works and missions are ours to bear, as members of His same Church, the same Church to which St. Paul and the other holy and faithful servants of the Lord had belonged to.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are all called to follow the Lord and to walk in His path, following in the footsteps of St. Paul, to go forth proclaiming the Good News to all peoples of all the nations. We are called to continue the works that the holy Apostles of the Lord had begun, and the best way for us to do it, is to truly bear witness to the Lord by our own exemplary life, grounded and filled with faith in God.

This means that, in everything we say and do, and in every moments of our life, we must show our faith through our way of life, by showing love for God, the love for His laws and teachings, and also, the love for our fellow men and women, who are our fellow brothers and sisters in the same Lord. Let us all renew this conviction and commitment to live from now on, in accordance with our faith, and do the best we can in order to bring His truth and His salvation into this world.

May the Lord bless us and guide us, and may He continue to love us, each and every single days of our life as He has always done, and may He be with us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

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.

Wednesday, 25 January 2017 : 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, today we mark the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle, the remembrance of the moment when St. Paul was called by God to become His follower and Apostle. St. Paul the Apostle was once known as Saul, the Pharisee and a highly educated member of the Jewish elite who was a great enemy of Jesus and His teachings, a great persecutor of the faithful and the Church, and a terror in the hearts of many of the earliest Christians.

And therefore, he was indeed one of the least likely of those who would one day become one among the greatest champions of the faith, and as one of the greatest defenders of the faithful. Certainly no one would have expected someone who have committed so many great sins, caused so much sufferings against the faithful and the Church would become one of its own, and less so as one of its greatest servants and members.

But it is in this that we can see the great loving and merciful heart of our God, as He showed His tender mercy to all those who have been willing to repent and change their ways, by opening the way for them to approach the throne of His mercy and to accept His grace and love. God is willing to welcome back all those who have gone wayward and then later on desiring to return to Him.

In fact all those who have become saints and considered great in the sight of the Church and the faithful, all of them were also sinners at one point in their respective lives. This was just indeed as all of mankind were born as sinners, susceptible to sin, and also predisposed to sinful activities. It is in our nature to be tempted and persuaded to disobey the Lord and to do things that are against the will of God, and therefore to sin.

No one escaped from this reality, except for Christ Himself, Who was born into this world without any taint of sin, for He is God Who is all good, and also for His mother Mary, who alone amongst the sons and daughters of mankind were without any sin. All the rest of us have been sinful, have been wicked and unworthy, corrupted beings and souls before God, unworthy of His love and presence.

And yet, it is from us sinners whom God had chosen His saints and servants, to be those whom He set apart as examples for others, so that they too may be able to follow in the same path that these people had walked on. It was from among the feeble, the sinners, the wicked and the abandoned ones whom God had chosen to be His followers and disciples. We may think that God is really being unpredictable in this matter, but truly, His way is different from our human ways, and is often far beyond our understanding.

God did not choose those who would expect themselves to be chosen, namely those who thought that their abilities, prestige, position, honour and all other worldly parameters would matter, as God sees not in worldly terms and appearances, but instead in terms of what He truly sees in our hearts, in our potential for good and for obedience to His will. He sees through us all, to the deepest depths of our hearts, knowing everything in us, our minds and hearts, for He had created us Himself.

That is why He chose people like Saul, who had faith in God, but was misled by the wrong teachings and subverted by the overzealousness and hot-headedness of his youth into committing grievous errors and crimes against the faithful and God’s Church. But God saw the faith in him, and through him therefore, He wanted to bring His Good News and salvation to many more of His people, using his talents and skills, and thus, calling upon Saul, He called him to turn away from his mistaken path and repent, and then follow Him.

He chose people of various backgrounds, from humble fishermen who were often looked down by many others in the society for their frequently poor background and upbringing, their illiteracy and lack of intelligence. He chose the upright and just people, educated and intellectuals. He chose tax collectors who were reviled by many others for their supposed betrayal of their own people being the tax collectors for the Romans, and also even prostitutes, zealots and even thieves like Judas Iscariot.

He chose all of them with the single intent of calling all of them to change their way of life and to be redeemed from the multitudes of their sins. And hopefully through their repentance, they may set good examples and become inspirations for many others to follow, so that many more people will also change their lives and choose to follow the way of the Lord, and therefore be saved.

Not all whom God had called will be saved. It depends on ourselves, and all those others whom He had called. If people like Judas Iscariot refused to change themselves, and continued down their path of dishonesty, betrayal, wickedness, sinfulness and all the vices they had done before they follow the Lord, then in the end, they will not be made just by all the wrongs they have committed. Instead, they will be judged by those sins they made, unless they genuinely and thoroughly repented from them all.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as Christians, all of us ought to be like St. Paul, who turned away from his past, sinful life. He made a genuine and complete turnaround, and dedicating his whole life thereafter to God, he courageously stood up for his faith, even to go the extra mile to serve Him and to help spread the Good News by preaching it from town to town, across the seas, and even endured persecutions and terrible sufferings, rejection and humiliation along the way.

We should follow in his footsteps, in his strong conviction and commitment to the Lord, and to the obedience he had shown in following what the Lord had led him to do. This is what each and every one of us as Christians must do, and we have to reflect on this, as we celebrate today’s Feast of Conversion of St. Paul. If Saul had become Paul, from a great sinner to a great saint, then nothing is impossible for us, for we too can be like him.

May the Lord bless us and help us all, so that in our lives, we too may be like St. Paul, to be thoroughly changed and converted in our ways, so that we may also be righteous and just, becoming an inspiration for others to follow, so that they themselves may become inspirations of their own to others who see them, and therefore, through all these, the good works of the Church and the people of God become an unstoppable rippling force, spreading out, touching more hearts and souls, and calling more people to the salvation in God.

May the Lord be with us all, and may He bless all of our good endeavours, and help us to remain faithful to Him, as St. Paul himself once had been. Amen.

Wednesday, 25 January 2017 : 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 the Eleven, “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.”