2 February 2013
Extracted from the Acts of the Apostles 22:3-16:
Paul said to the people, ‘I am a Jew and was born at Tarsus in Cilicia. I was brought up here in this city. I studied under Gamaliel and was taught the exact observance of the Law of our ancestors. In fact, I was as full of duty towards God as you 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, since they even sent me with letters to their brothers in Damascus. When I set off it was with the intention of bringing prisoners back from there to Jerusalem for punishment.
‘I was on that journey and nearly at Damascus when about midday 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, and you are persecuting me.” The people with me saw the light but did not hear his voice as he spoke to me. I said: What am I to do, Lord? The Lord answered, “Stand up and go into Damascus, and there you will be told what you have been appointed to do.” The light had been so dazzling that I was blind and my companions had to take me by the hand; and so I came to Damascus.
‘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 Just One and hear his own voice speaking, because you are to be his witness before all mankind, testifying to what you have seen and heard. And now why delay? It is time you were baptised and had your sins washed away while invoking his name.”’
1 Alleluia! Praise Yahweh, all nations, extol him, all peoples,
2 for his faithful love is strong and his constancy never-ending.
Extracted from the holy Gospel according to Mark 16:15-18:
Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Good News to all creation.
He who believes and is baptised will be saved; he who does not believe will be condemned.
These are the signs that will be associated with believers: in my name they will cast out devils; they will have the gift of tongues; they will pick up snakes in their hands, and be unharmed should they drink deadly poison; they will lay their hands on the sick, who will recover.’
On 25 January 2013, the Universal Church celebrated the Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul, here are the Mass Readings:
1st Reading: Acts of the Apostles 22:3-16,
Responsorial: Psalm 117:1-2 &
Gospel Reading: Mark 16:15-18.
The aforesaid have been extracted (see above). The past Homilies of Blessed Pope John Paul II & Pope Benedict XVI have also been extracted to share with you as God’s encouragements to all of us:
MASS WITH HIS HOLINESS ARAM I
HOMILY OF POPE JOHN PAUL II
Saturday, 25 January 1997
1. “Praise the Lord, all nations! Extol him, all peoples! For great is his steadfast love toward us; and the faithfulness of the Lord endures for ever” (Psalm 117 :1-2). With these words from the psalm, the Old Testament already proclaimed God’s saving plan for all the nations. This plan is universal; indeed, it could even be said to be “ecumenical” since it concerns the inhabited earth, that is, the oikoumene.
This vision of the salvation God offers all peoples of the world is also described in the first reading of today’s liturgy through the image of the messianic feast. “On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food” (Isaiah 25:6). The prophet Isaiah gives us a glimpse of the mysterious and provident work of the Lord, who acts in the service of unity and the salvation of humanity. He lifts the veil obscuring the peoples’ gaze, swallows up death and wipes away tears from all faces (cf. Isaiah 25:7-8).
Yes, this extraordinary power really comes from God; in him we put our hope. However, at the same time we feel committed to supporting this plan of salvation with all our energy.
This universalist perspective already present in the Old Testament is echoed in today’s Gospel, which presents us with the missionary mandate Jesus gave his Apostles before his Ascension into heaven: “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15). He then added: “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16). With strong and decisive words at the end of his messianic mission, Christ once again confirms the universal plan of salvation willed by the Father and indicates its global dimension by speaking of all the nations and all the world.
2. This universal mission of salvation takes on great importance on the day when the Church commemorates the conversion of St Paul. Among the Apostles, in fact, Paul himself expresses and fulfils the Church’s universal mission in a particular way. On the road to Damascus Christ associates him with the divine plan of universal salvation: “The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will ... for you will be a witness for him to all men of what you have seen and heard” (Acts of the Apostles 22:14-16).
Until that moment the zealous Pharisee Saul was convinced that the plan of salvation concerned only one people: Israel. He therefore fought the disciples of Jesus of Nazareth, the Christians, with every possible means. From Jerusalem he went to Damascus precisely because there, where Christianity was spreading rapidly, he wanted to imprison and punish all those who were abandoning the ancient traditions of their fathers and were embracing the Christian faith. Near Damascus, he is illumined by a light from on high. He falls to the ground, and at that dramatic moment Christ makes him aware of his error.
On this occasion, Jesus reveals himself fully to Paul as the One who rose from the dead. Thus the Apostle is allowed “to see the Just One and to hear a voice from his mouth” (Acts of the Apostles 22:14). From that moment, Paul becomes an “apostle” like the Twelve, and, when addressing the Galatians, will be able to state: “He who had set me apart before I was born, and had called me through his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles” (Galatians 1:15ff.).
3. Dear brothers and sisters, it is truly a happy occasion that gathers us every year in this ancient Basilica for the Eucharistic celebration that closes the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. We recall Paul’s conversion in this church dedicated to him. From the time when the risen Jesus revealed himself to him in Damascus, to the supreme witness he gave in Rome, Paul was a zealous servant of the communion which must exist among the members of the Body of Christ. His “daily pressure” was, as he himself confesses, “my anxiety for all the Churches” (2 Corinthians 11:28).
Precisely from his apostolic work for the reconciliation and communion of believers the theme for the Week of Prayer this year draws its inspiration: “We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20).
The striving for reconciliation in accordance with truth and love, which was the centre of our prayer during this Week, must accompany us every day. Today’s Eucharistic celebration is a sign of our quest for deeper communion among all Christians. It acquires a specific ecumenical significance thanks to the presence of our very dear brother in Christ, the Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia, His Holiness Aram I, whom I greet with cordial brotherly affection.
The Armenian nation was baptized at the beginning of the fourth century. The trials and persecution suffered down the centuries by the Armenian people and their Church are well known. Precisely because of these events, at the beginning of the second millennium part of the population was obliged to flee from Armenia and take refuge in Cilicia, the land of Paul of Tarsus. The Catholicate of the Great House of Cilicia played an important role in guaranteeing the Christian life of the Armenian people during the diaspora.