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Liturgical day: January 25th: Conversion of Paul, apostle

1st Reading (Acts 22:3-16): Paul addressed the people in these words: «I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city. At the feet of Gamaliel I was educated strictly in our ancestral law and was zealous for God, just as all of you are today. I persecuted this Way to death, binding both men and women and delivering them to prison. Even the high priest and the whole council of elders can testify on my behalf. For from them I even received letters to the brothers and set out for Damascus to bring back to Jerusalem in chains for punishment those there as well.

»On that journey as I drew near to Damascus, about noon a great light from the sky suddenly shone around me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’. I replied, ‘Who are you, sir?’. And he said to me, ‘I am Jesus the Nazorean whom you are persecuting’. My companions saw the light but did not hear the voice of the one who spoke to me. I asked, ‘What shall I do, sir?’. The Lord answered me, ‘Get up and go into Damascus, and there you will be told about everything appointed for you to do’.

»Since I could see nothing because of the brightness of that light, I was led by hand by my companions and entered Damascus. A certain Ananias, a devout observer of the law, and highly spoken of by all the Jews who lived there, came to me and stood there and said, ‘Saul, my brother, regain your sight’. And at that very moment I regained my sight and saw him. Then he said, ‘The God of our ancestors designated you to know his will, to see the Righteous One, and to hear the sound of his voice; for you will be his witness before all to what you have seen and heard. Now, why delay? Get up and have yourself baptized and your sins washed away, calling upon his name’».


Or (Acts 9:1-22): Saul, still breathing murderous threats against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, that, if he should find any men or women who belonged to the Way, he might bring them back to Jerusalem in chains. On his journey, as he was nearing 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 are you persecuting me?». He said, «Who are you, sir?». The reply came, «I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. Now get up and go into the city and you will be told what you must do». The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, for they heard the voice but could see no one. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him to Damascus. For three days he was unable to see, and he neither ate nor drank.

There was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias, and the Lord said to him in a vision, «Ananias». He answered, «Here I am, Lord». The Lord said to him, «Get up and go to the street called Straight and ask at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus named Saul. He is there praying, and in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him, that he may regain his sight». But Ananias replied, «Lord, I have heard from many sources about this man, what evil things he has done to your holy ones in Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to imprison all who call upon your name». But the Lord said to him, «Go, for this man is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before Gentiles, kings, and children of Israel, and I will show him what he will have to suffer for my name». So Ananias went and entered the house; laying his hands on him, he said, «Saul, my brother, the Lord has sent me, Jesus who appeared to you on the way by which you came, that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit». Immediately things like scales fell from his eyes and he regained his sight. He got up and was baptized, and when he had eaten, he recovered his strength.

He stayed some days with the disciples in Damascus, and he began at once to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God. All who heard him were astounded and said, «Is not this the man who in Jerusalem ravaged those who call upon this name, and came here expressly to take them back in chains to the chief priests?». But Saul grew all the stronger and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus, proving that this is the Christ.

Responsorial Psalm: 116
R/. Go out to all the world, and tell the Good News.
Praise the Lord, all you nations; glorify him, all you peoples!

For steadfast is his kindness toward us, and the fidelity of the Lord endures forever.
Versicle before the Gospel (Jn 15:16): Alleluia. I chose you from the world, to go and bear fruit that will last, says the Lord. Alleluia.

Gospel text (Mk 16,15-18): Jesus showed himself to the Eleven and said to them, «Go out to the whole world and proclaim the Good News to all creation. The one who believes and is baptized 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».

«Go out to the whole world and proclaim the Good News to all creation»

Fr. Josep GASSÓ i Lécera
(Ripollet, Barcelona, Spain)

Today, the Church commemorates the conversion of St. Paul, apostle. The short fragment of the Gospel according to St. Mark contains part of the address on the mission bestowed to the apostles by Jesus, resurrected. His exhortation to go out to the whole world and proclaim the Good News includes the thesis that faith and baptism and necessary essentials for salvation: «The one who believes and is baptized will be saved; the one who refuses to believe will be condemned» (Mk 16:16). Furthermore, Christ guarantees that preachers will be given the faculty to work out miracles or prodigies which will support and confirm their missionary preaching (cf. Mk 17:18). The mission is big —«Go out to the whole world»—, but it will not be without the Lord's escort: «And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age» (Mt 28:20).

Today's collect, tells us: «O God, who, by the preaching of your apostle Paul, has caused the light of the Gospel to shine throughout the world: grant, we beseech you, that we, having his wonderful conversion in remembrance, may show forth our thankfulness to you for the same by following the holy doctrine which he taught». A gospel God has allowed us to know and that so many souls would desire to have: we have the responsibility to transmit this wonderful heritage to whatever extent we are able to.

St. Paul's conversion is a great event: from persecuting Jesus' followers he converted into a servant and defender of the cause of Christ. Quite often, perhaps, we have also been “persecutors”: and, as St. Paul, we need to convert from “persecutors” into servants and defenders of Jesus Christ.

With the Virgin Mary, we should realize the Almighty has also noticed us and has chosen us to share and carry out the priestly and redeeming mission of his divine Son: Regina apostolorum, Queen of the apostles, pray for us!; give us courage to bear witness of our Christian faith in this world of ours.