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.

Thursday, 28 June 2018 : Vigil Mass of the Solemnity of St. Peter and St. Paul, Apostles (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Galatians 1 : 11-20

Let me remind you, brothers and sisters, that the Gospel we preached to you is not a human message, nor did I receive it from anyone, I was not taught of it; but it came to me, as a revelation from Christ Jesus. You have heard of my previous activity in the Jewish community; I furiously persecuted the Church of God and tried to destroy it. For I was more devoted to the Jewish religion than many fellow Jews of my age, and I defended the traditions of my ancestors more fanatically.

But one day, God called me, out of His great love, He, Who had chosen me from my mother’s womb; and he was pleased to reveal, in me, His Son, that I might make Him known among the pagan nations. Then, I did not seek human advice nor did I go up to Jerusalem, to those who were Apostles before me. I immediately went to Arabia, and from there, I returned, again, to Damascus.

Later, after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to meet Cephas, and I stayed with him for fifteen days. But I did not see any other Apostle except James, the Lord’s brother. On writing this to you, I affirm before God that I am not lying.

Friday, 20 April 2018 : 3rd Week of Easter (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 9 : 1-20

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 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.

Sunday, 15 April 2018 : Third Sunday of Easter (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 13 : 13-15, 17-19

From Paphos, Paul and his companions set sail and came to Perga in Pamphylia. There, John left them and returned to Jerusalem, while they went on from Perga and came to Antioch in Pisidia. On the Sabbath day they entered the synagogue and sat down. After the reading of the Law and the prophets, the officials of the synagogue sent this message to them, “Brothers, if you have any word of encouragement for the assembly, please speak up.”

Paul spoke to them, “The God of our people Israel chose our ancestors; and after He had made them increase during their stay in Egypt, He led them out by powerful deeds. For forty years He fed them in the desert; and after He had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, He gave them their land as an inheritance.”