Skip to comments.Catholic Caucus: Daily Mass Readings 25-January-2023
Posted on 01/25/2023 4:10:06 AM PST by annalex
The Conversion of Saint Paul, Apostle
St. Maurus Roman Catholic Church, Biehle, Missouri
Readings at Mass
Liturgical Colour: White. Year: A(I).
'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?'
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.”’
Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Good News.
O praise the Lord, all you nations,
acclaim him all you peoples!
Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Good News.
Strong is his love for us;
he is faithful for ever.
Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Good News.
I chose you from the world
to go out and bear fruit,
fruit that will last,
says the Lord.
Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Good News
Jesus showed himself to the Eleven and said to them:
‘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.’
Each day, The Christian Art website gives a picture and reflection on the Gospel of the day.
The readings on this page are from the Jerusalem Bible, which is used at Mass in most of the English-speaking world. The New American Bible readings, which are used at Mass in the United States, are available in the Universalis apps, programs and downloads.
KEYWORDS: catholic; mk16; ordinarytime; prayer
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|English: Douay-Rheims||Latin: Vulgata Clementina||Greek NT: Byzantine/Majority Text (2000)|
|15.||And he said to them: Go ye into the whole world, and preach the gospel to every creature.||Et dixit eis : Euntes in mundum universum prædicate Evangelium omni creaturæ.||και ειπεν αυτοις πορευθεντες εις τον κοσμον απαντα κηρυξατε το ευαγγελιον παση τη κτισει|
|16.||He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved: but he that believeth not shall be condemned.||Qui crediderit, et baptizatus fuerit, salvus erit : qui vero non crediderit, condemnabitur.||ο πιστευσας και βαπτισθεις σωθησεται ο δε απιστησας κατακριθησεται|
|17.||And these signs shall follow them that believe: In my name they shall cast out devils: they shall speak with new tongues.||Signa autem eos qui crediderint, hæc sequentur : in nomine meo dæmonia ejicient : linguis loquentur novis :||σημεια δε τοις πιστευσασιν ταυτα παρακολουθησει εν τω ονοματι μου δαιμονια εκβαλουσιν γλωσσαις λαλησουσιν καιναις|
|18.||They shall take up serpents; and if they shall drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them: they shall lay their hands upon the sick, and they shall recover.||serpentes tollent : et si mortiferum quid biberint, non eis nocebit : super ægros manus imponent, et bene habebunt.||οφεις αρουσιν καν θανασιμον τι πιωσιν ου μη αυτους βλαψη επι αρρωστους χειρας επιθησουσιν και καλως εξουσιν|
14. Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen.
15. And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature.
16. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believed not shall be damned.
17. And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;
18. They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.
GLOSS. (non occ.) Mark, when about to finish his Gospel, relates the last appearance of our Lord to His disciples after His resurrection, saying,1 For the last time he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat. (Acts 1:4, 9)
GREGORY. (ubi sup.) We should observe that Luke says in the Acts, As he2 was eating with them he commanded that they should not depart from Jerusalem, and shortly afterwards, while they beheld he was taken up. For He ate, and then ascended, that by the act of eating, the truth of the flesh might be declared; wherefore it is also here said, that he appeared to them for the last time as they sat at meat.
PSEUDO-JEROME. But He appeared when all the eleven were together, that all might be witnesses, and relate to all men what they had seen and heard in common. It goes on: And upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them who had seen him after his resurrection.
AUGUSTINE. (ubi sup.) But how was this done the last time? The last occasion on which the Apostles saw the Lord upon earth happened forty days after the resurrection; but would He then have upbraided them for not believing those who had seen Him risen, when they themselves had so often seen Him after His resurrection? It remains therefore that we should understand that Mark wished to say it in few words, and said for the last time, because it was the last time that He shewed Himself that day, as night was coming on, when the disciples returned from the country into Jerusalem, and found, as Luke says (Luke 24:33.), the eleven and those who were with them, speaking together concerning the resurrection of our Lord. But there were some there who did not believe; when these then were sitting at meat, (as Mark says,) and were still speaking, (as Luke relates,) The Lord stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you; (Luke 24:36) as Luke and John say. (John 20:19) The rebuke therefore which Mark here mentions, must have been amongst those words, which Luke and John say, that the Lord at that time spoke to the disciples. But another question is raised, how Mark says that He appeared when the eleven sat at meat, if the time was the first part of the night on the Lord’s day, when John plainly says that Thomas was not with them, who, we believe, had gone out, before the Lord came in to them, after those two had returned from the village, and spoken with the eleven, as we find in Luke’s Gospel. But Luke in his relation leaves room for supposing that Thomas went out first, while they spoke these things, and that the Lord entered afterwards; Mark however from his saying, for the last time he appeared to the eleven as they sat at meat, forces us to believe that he was there, unless indeed, though one of them was absent, he chose to call them the eleven, because the company of the Apostles was then called by this number, before Matthias was chosen into the place of Judas. Or if this be a harsh way of understanding it, let us understand that it means that after many appearances, He shewed Himself for the last time, that is, on the fortieth day, to the Apostles, as they sat at meat, and that since He was about to ascend from them, He rather wished on that day to reprove them for not having believed those who had seen Him risen before seeing Him themselves, because after His ascension even the Gentiles on their preaching were to believe a Gospel, which they had not seen. And so the same Mark immediately after that rebuke says, And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature. And lower down, He that believeth not shall be condemned. Since then they were to preach this, were not they themselves to be first rebuked, because before they saw the Lord they had not believed those to whom He had first appeared?
GREGORY. (ubi sup.) Another reason also why our Lord rebuked His disciples, when He left them as to His bodily presence, was, that the words which He spoke on leaving them might remain more deeply impressed upon the hearts of His hearers.
PSEUDO-JEROME. But He rebukes their want of faith, that faith might take its place; He rebukes the hardness of their stony heart, that the fleshy heart, full of love, might take its place.
GREGORY. (ubi sup.) After rebuking the hardness of their hearts, let us hear the words of advice which He speaks. For it goes on: Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature. Every man must be understood by every creature; for man partakes something of every creature; he has existence as have stones, life as trees, feeling as animals, understanding as have Angels. For the Gospel is preached to every creature, because he is taught by it, for whose sake all are created, whom all things are in some way like, and from whom therefore they are not alien. By the name of every creature also every nation of the Gentiles may be meant. For it had been said before, Go not into the way of the Gentiles. (Matt. 10:5) But now it is said, Preach the Gospel to every creature, so that the preaching of the Apostles which was thrust aside by Judæa, might be an assistance to us, since Judæa had haughtily rejected it, thus witnessing to her own damnation.
THEOPHYLACT. Or else; to every creature, that is, whether believing or unbelieving. It goes on: He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved. For it is not enough to believe, for he who believeth and is not baptized, but is a catechumen, has not yet attained to perfect salvation.
GREGORY. (ubi sup.) But perhaps some one may say in himself, I have already believed, I shall be saved. He says what is true, if he keeps his faith by works; for that is a true faith, which does not contradict by its deeds what it says in words. There follows: But he that believeth not shall be damned.
BEDE. (ubi sup.) What shall we say here about infants, who by reason of their age cannot yet believe; for as to older persons there is no question. In the Church then of our Saviour children believe by others, as also they drew from others the sins which are remitted to them in baptism. It goes on: And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents.
THEOPHYLACT. That is, they shall scatter before them serpents, whether intellectual or sensible, as it is said, Ye shall tread upon serpents and scorpions, which is understood spiritually. But it may also mean sensible serpents, as when Paul received no hurt from the viper. There follows: And if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them. (Luke 10:19) We read of many such cases in history, for many persons have drank poison unhurt, by guarding themselves with the sign of Christ. It goes on: They shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recorer.
GREGORY. (ubi sup.) Are we then without faith because we cannot do these signs? Nay, but these things were necessary in the beginning of the Church, for the faith of believers was to be nourished by miracles, that it might increase. Thus we also, when we plant groves, pour water upon them, until we see that they have grown strong in the earth; but when once they have firmly fixed their roots, we leave off irrigating them. These signs and miracles have other things which we ought to consider more minutely. For Holy Church does every day in spirit what then the Apostles did in body; for when her Priests by the grace of exorcism lay their hands on believers, and forbid the evil spirits to dwell in their minds, what do they, but cast out devils? And the faithful who have left earthly words, and whose tongues sound forth the Holy Mysteries, speak a new language; they who by their good warnings take away evil from the hearts of others, take up serpents; and when they are hearing words of pestilent persuasion, without being at all drawn aside to evil doing, they drink a deadly thing, but it will never hurt them; whenever they see their neighbours growing weak in good works, and by their good example strengthen their life, they lay their hands on the sick, that they may recover. And all these miracles are greater in proportion as they are spiritual, and by them souls and not bodies are raised.
Catena Aurea Mark 16
Although some Catholics may know of St. Maurus, the blessing of St. Maurus appears to be something of a well-kept secret. It seems that few clergy and even fewer laity know about it. St. Maurus (also known as St. Maur) was a monk and protégé of St. Benedict of Nursia. The son of a Roman nobleman, young Maurus entered the monastery at Subiaco, at about the age of 12. Another, younger boy, Placidus (or Placid), entered the monastery sometime around then as well. In those days, it was not uncommon for parents to offer their children as “oblates” to a monastery where the boys would be given a sound education intellectually and morally. This was the case with Maurus and Placidus, whose families placed them under the care of St. Benedict.
“…as Benedict was in his cell, young Placidus, the holy man’s monk, went out to take up water at the lake, and, putting down his pail carelessly, fell in after it. The water forthwith carried him away from the land as far as one may shoot an arrow. The man of God, being in his cell, by and by knew this. He called in haste for Maurus, saying: ‘Brother Maurus, run as fast as you can, for Placidus, who went to the lake to fetch water, has fallen in, and is carried a good way off.'”
Brother Maurus rushed post-haste, to the lake and ran out to Placid, grabbing him by the hair of his head and pulling him to safety. Apparently, Maurus thought that he had been running on land. Actually, though, he had run across the water of the lake. This, he determined after dragging young Placid to safety. St. Maurus attributed the miracle to St. Benedict’s intervention, and St. Benedict, a master of humility himself, attributed it to the humility and obedience of St. Maurus. Placid, for his part, recalled seeing the Abbot’s (Benedict’s) garment on his head at the time of the rescue, pointing to St. Benedict’s involvement, together with that of St. Maurus, in his rescue.
Similarly, the blessing of St. Maurus cured a badly injured priest who had fallen headlong down a long staircase at Monte Cassino. In this incident, Deacon Maurus utilized a relic of the true cross from the altar at the abbey. Exposing the relic, Maurus made the sign of the cross and prayed over the priest’s terribly injured arm and shoulder. Upon Maurus’ completion of his prayer, the priest’s arm healed miraculously, although they initially thought they would have to amputate it.
V. Benediction and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, honor and power and strength to our God forever and ever.
V. My foot has stood in a direct way.
R. In the churches I will bless You, O Lord.
In the name of the most holy and undivided Trinity and supported by the merits of the most holy Father Benedict, I bid you, N., to rise, stand upon your feet and be cured, in the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.
Antiphon. Surely He has borne our infirmities and carried our sorrows: by His bruises, we are healed.
V. He that forgives the iniquities of his creatures.
R. May He heal your infirmities.
V. O Lord, hear my prayer.
R. And let my cry come to You.
V. The Lord be with you.
R. And with your spirit.
Through the same Christ our Lord.
You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit for ever and ever.
May God’s holy will be done, and may it be done to you as you wish and pray, for the praise and honor of the most holy Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The priest then blesses the sick person with the relic of the Cross or the medal of St. Benedict saying:
May the blessing of Almighty God, of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit descend upon you and abide with you forever.
The sick person then kisses the relic or the medal of St. Benedict.
This blessing, if need be, maybe repeated three times; also three votive Masses may be celebrated, namely in honor of the Passion, of St. Maurus, Abbot, and for the Poor Souls; otherwise, the fifteen decades of the Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary are to be prayed according to the aforesaid intentions by the sick person, or by others in the person’s name.
Any Priest or Deacon May Impart the Blessing of St. Maurus
The Sacred Congregation has approved the above form of blessing for all priests and deacons, secular as well as regular clerics, to impart. If you don’t have access to a Benedictine priest or deacon, your parish priest or deacon, or other duly ordained Catholic clergies can pray this blessing over you with a medal of St. Benedict. Here also, the medal may be blessed by any priest or deacon using the approved form of blessing. It’s true that we have the sacrament of anointing of the sick, but why not take advantage of this special blessing as well? The Benedictine site, OSB.org, tells us:
Innumerable facts attest that where the blessing of St. Maurus has been received with a lively faith, sincere contrition, and firm confidence in God, persons have been relieved of their bodily ills, sicknesses have been cured, and evident miracles have been wrought.
Let us all approach the blessing of St. Maurus with a lively faith, sincere contrition and firm confidence in God, seeking the unity of our will with His in all things, including our infirmities – Dominus Providebit!
Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam (To the Greater Glory of God)
From: Acts 22:3-16
Paul Defends Himself Before the Crowd
(He [Paul] spoke to them [the people] in the Hebrew language, saying:)  "I am a Jew, born at Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, educated according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God as you all are this day.  I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering to prison both men and women,  as the high priest and the whole council of elders bear me witness. From them I received letters to the brethren, and I journeyed to Damascus to take those also who were there and bring them in bonds to Jerusalem to be punished.
 "As I made my journey and drew near to Damascus, about noon a great light from heaven suddenly shone about me.  And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, 'Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?'  And I answered, 'Who are you, Lord?' And he said to me, 'I am Jesus of Nazareth whom you are persecuting.'  Now those who were with me saw the light but did not hear the voice of the one who was speaking to me.  And I said, 'What shall I do, Lord?' And the Lord said to me, 'Rise, and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all that is appointed for you to do.'  And when I could not see because of the brightness of that light, I was led by the hand by those who were with me, and came into Damascus.
 "And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, well-spoken of by all the Jews who lived there,  came to me, and standing by me said to me, 'Brother Saul, receive your sight.' And in that very hour I received my sight and saw him.  And he said, 'The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will, to see the Just One and to hear a voice from his mouth;  for you will be a witness for him to all men of what you have seen and heard. And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on his name.'"
1-21. St Luke gives us Paul's address to the Jews of Jerusalem, the first of three speeches in his own defense (cf. 24:10-21; 26:1-23) in which he tries to show that there is no reason why Christianity should be opposed by Jew or by Roman. Here he presents himself as a pious Jew, full of respect for his people and their sacred traditions. He earnestly desires his brethren to realize that there are compelling reasons for his commitment to Jesus. He is convinced that they can experience in their souls the same kind of spiritual change as he did. However, this speech is not a closely-argued apologia. His main intention is not so much to answer the accusations levelled against him as to use this opportunity to bear witness to Jesus Christ, whose commandments validate Paul's actions. What he is really trying to do is to get his hearers to obey the voice of the Lord.
1. "Brethren and fathers": the "fathers" may refer to members of the Sanhedrin present in the crowd.
3. Gamaliel (cf. 5:34) belonged to the school of the rabbi Hillel, which was noted for a less rigorous interpretation of the Law than that of Shammai and his disciples.
4. The situation described by Paul is confirmed by 1 Cor 15:9: "I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God"; Gal 1:13: "You have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it"; Phil 3:6: "as to the law a Pharisee, as to zeal a persecutor of the church"; and 1 Tim 1:13: "I formerly blasphemed and persecuted and insulted him [Christ]".
6-11. Paul describes in his own words what happened on the way to Damascus (cf. 9:3-9; 26:6-16). This account differs in some ways from--but does not contradict--the two other versions of the episode, especially that of chapter 9, which is told in St Luke's words.
Paul adds that the whole thing happened at midday (cf. 26:13), and he says that Jesus referred to himself as "Jesus of Nazareth". He also includes the question "What shall I do, Lord?", which is not given in chapter 9.
As far as Paul's companions were concerned, we know that they saw the light (Acts 22:9) but did not see anyone (Acts 9:7): they did not see the glorified Jesus; they heard a voice (Acts 9:7) but did not hear the voice of the one who was speaking to Paul (Acts 22:9), that is, did not understand what the voice said.
10. Paul addresses Jesus as "Lord", which shows that this vision has revealed to him the divinity of him whom he was persecuting. The divine voice orders him to get up from the ground and the future Apostle of the Gentiles obeys immediately. The physical movement of getting up is a kind of symbol of the spiritual uplift his soul is given by God's call. "This was the first grace, that was given to the first Adam; but more powerful than it is the grace in the second Adam. The effect of the first grace was that a man might have justice, if he willed; the second grace, therefore, is more powerful, because it affects the will itself; it makes for a strong will, a burning charity, so that by a contrary will the spirit overcomes the conflicting will of the flesh" (St Augustine, "De Correptione Et Gratia", XI, 31).
"Many have come to Christianity", Origen says, "as if against their will, for a certain spirit, appearing to them, in sleep or when they are awake, suddenly silences their mind, and they change from hating the Word to dying for him" ("Against Celsus", I, 46).
Paul's conversion is an outstanding example of what divine grace and divine assistance in general can effect in a person's heart.
12-16. This account of Ananias and his role in Paul's conversion is much shorter than that given in chapter 9 (cf. vv. 10-19). St Paul adapts it here to suit his audience (who are all Jews). He presents Jesus as the one in whom the Old Testament prophecies are fulfilled. Like Peter (cf. 3:1 3ff) and Stephen (cf. 7:52) he speaks of the "God of our fathers" and the "Just One" when referring to God and to Jesus respectively.
From: Acts 9:1-22
Saul on His Way to Damascus
 But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest  and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.  Now a he journeyed he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from Heaven flashed about him.  And he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?"  And he said, "Who are you, Lord?" And He said, "I am Jesus whom you are persecuting;  but rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do."  The men who were travelling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one.  Saul arose from the ground; and when his eyes were opened, he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus.  And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.
Ananias Baptizes Saul
 Now there was a disciple at Damascus called Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, "Ananias." And he said, "Here I am, Lord."  And the Lord said to him, "Rise and go to the street called Straight, and inquire in the house of Judas for a man of Tarsus named Saul; for behold, he is praying,  and he has seen a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight."  But Ananias answered, "Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to Thy saints at Jerusalem;  and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call upon Thy name."  But the Lord said to him, "Go for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel;  for I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of My name."  So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, "Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came, has sent me that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit."  And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized,  and took food and was strengthened.
For several days he was with the disciples at Damascus.
Paul Begins His Apostolate
 And in the synagogues immediately he proclaimed Jesus, saying, "He is the Son of God."  And all who heard were amazed and said, "Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem of those who called on this name? And he has come here for this purpose to bring them bound before the chief priests."  But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ.
1-3. Roman authorities recognized the moral authority of the Sanhedrin and even permitted it to exercise a certain jurisdiction over members of Jewish communities outside Palestine--as was the case with Damascus. The Sanhedrin even had the right to extradite Jews to Palestine (cf. I Maccabees 15:21).
Damascus was about 230-250 kilometers (150 miles) from Jerusalem, depending on which route one took. Saul and his associates, who would probably have been mounted, would have had no difficulty in doing the journey in under a week. This apparition took place towards the end of the journey, when they were near Damascus.
2. "The Way": the corresponding word in Hebrew also means religious behavior. Here it refers to both Christian lifestyle and the Gospel itself; indirectly it means all the early followers of Jesus (cf. Acts 18:25ff; 19:9, 23; 22:4) and all those who come after them and are on the way to Heaven; it reminds us of Jesus' words, "The gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few" (Matthew 7:14).
3-19. This is the first of the three accounts of the calling of Saul--occurring probably between the years 34 and 36--that are given in the Acts of the Apostles (cf. Acts 22:5-16; 26:10-18); where important events are concerned, St. Luke does not mind repeating himself. Once again the Light shines in the darkness (cf. John 1:5). It does so here in a spectacular way and, as in every conversion, it makes the convert see God, himself and others in a new way.
However, the episode on the road to Damascus is not only a conversion. It marks the beginning of St. Paul's vocation: "What amazes you seems natural to me: that God has sought you out in the practice of your profession!
"This is how He sought the first, Peter and Andrew, James and John, beside their nets, and Matthew, sitting in the custom-house.
"And--wonder of wonders!--Paul, in his eagerness to destroy the seed of the Christians" (St J. Escriva, "The Way", 799).
The background to St. Luke's concise account is easy to fill in. There would have been no Hellenist Christians left in Jerusalem: they had fled the city, some going as far afield as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch. Many had sought refuge in Damascus, and Saul must have realized that their evangelizing zeal would win many converts among faithful Jews in that city. Saul genuinely wanted to serve God, which explains his readiness to respond to grace. Like most Jews of his time, he saw the Messiah as a political liberator, a warrior-king, a half-Heavenly, half-earthly figure such as described in the apocryphal "Book of Enoch", 46: "It is impossible to imagine how even his glance terrifies his enemies. Wherever he turns, everything trembles; wherever his voice reaches everything is overwhelmed and those who hear it are dissolved as wax in fire." A hero of this type does not fall into the power of his enemies, much less let them crucify him; on the contrary, he is a victor, he annihilates his enemies and establishes an everlasting kingdom of peace and justice. For Saul, Jesus' death on a cross was a clear proof that He was a false messiah; and the whole notion of a brotherhood of Jews and Gentiles was inconceivable.
He has almost reached Damascus when a light flashes; he is thrown onto the ground and hears a voice from Heaven calling his name twice, in a tone of sad complaint.
Saul surrenders unconditionally and places himself at the Lord's service. He does not bemoan his past life; he is ready to start anew. No longer is the Cross a "scandal": it has become for him a sign of salvation, the "power of God", a throne of victory, whose praises he will sing in his epistles. Soon St. Paul will learn more about this Way and about all that Jesus did and taught, but from this moment onwards, the moment of his calling, he realizes that Jesus is the risen Messiah, in whom the prophecies find fulfillment; he believes in the divinity of Christ: he sees how different his idea of the Messiah was from the glorified, pre-existing and eternal Son of God; he understands Christ's mystical presence in His followers: "Why do you persecute me?" In other words, he realizes that he has been chosen by God, called by God, and immediately places himself at his service.
4. This identification of Christ and Christians is something which the Apostle will later elaborate on when he speaks of the Mystical Body of Christ (cf. Colossians 1:18; Ephesians 1:22f).
St. Bede comments as follows: "Jesus does not say, `Why do you persecute My members?', but, `Why do you persecute Me?', because He Himself still suffers affronts in His body, which is the Church. Similarly Christ will take account of the good actions done to His members, for He said, `I was hungry and you gave Me food...' (Matthew 25:35), and explaining these words He added `As you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me' (Matthew 25:40)" ("Super Act. Expositio, ad loc.").
5-6. In the Vulgate and in many other translations these words are added between the end of verse 5 and the start of verse 6: "It is hard for thee to kick against the goad. And he, trembling and astonished, said: "Lord, what will Thou have me to do? And the Lord said to him". These words do not seem to be part of the original sacred text but rather a later explanatory gloss; for this reason the New Vulgate omits them. (The first part of the addition comes from Paul's address in Acts 26:14).
6. The calling of Saul was exceptional as regards the manner in which God called him; but the effect it had on him was the same as what happens when God gives a specific calling to the apostolate to certain individual Christians, inviting them to follow Him more closely. Paul's immediate response is a model of how those who receive these specific callings should act (all Christians, of course, have a common calling to holiness and apostolate that comes with Baptism).
[Pope] Paul VI describes in this way the effects of this specific kind of vocation in a person's soul: "The apostolate is [...] an inner voice, which makes one both restless and serene, a voice that is both gentle and imperious, troublesome and affectionate, a voice which comes unexpectedly and with great events and then, at a particular point, exercises a strong attraction, as it were revealing to us our life and our destiny. It speaks prophetically and almost in a tone of victory, which eventually dispels all uncertainty, all timidity and all fear, and which facilitates-- making it easy, desirable and pleasant--the response of our whole personality, when we pronounce that word which reveals the supreme secret of love: Yes; Yes, Lord, tell what I must do and I will try to do it, I will do it. Like St. Paul, thrown to the ground at the gates of Damascus: What would You have me do?
"The roots of the apostolate run deep: the apostolate is vocation, election, interior encounter with Christ, abandonment of one's personal autonomy to His will, to His invisible presence; it is a kind of substitution of our poor, restless heart, inconstant and at times unfaithful yet hungry for love, for His heart, the heart of Christ which is beginning to pulsate in the one who has been chosen. And then comes the second act in the psychological drama of the apostolate: the need to spread, to do, to give, to speak, to pass on to others one's own treasure, one's own fire. [...]
"The apostolate becomes a continuous expansion of one's soul, the exuberance of a personality taken over by Christ and animated by HisSpirit; it becomes a need to hasten, to work, to do everything one can to spread the Kingdom of God, to save other souls, to save all souls" ("Homily", 14 October 1968).
8-11. Straight Street runs through Damascus from east to west and can still be identified today.
13. Ananias refers to Christ's followers as "saints"; this was the word normally used to describe the disciples, first in Palestine and then in the world at large. God is THE Holy One (cf. Isaiah 6:3); as the Old Testament repeatedly says, those who approach God and keep His commandments share in this holiness: "The Lord said to Moses, `Say to all the congregation of the people of Israel, You shall be holy; for I the Lord your God am holy'" (Leviticus 19:1-2).
The use of this term is an example of the spiritual sensitivity of our first brothers and sisters in the faith: "What a moving name--saints! --the early Christians used to address each other!...
"Learn to be a brother to your brothers" (St J. Escriva, "The Way", 469).
15-16. Our Lord calls St. Paul His "vessel of election", which is a Hebraicism equivalent to "chosen instrument", and He tells Ananias how much the Apostle will have to suffer on His account. A Christian called to the apostolate is also, by virtue of this divine vocation, an instrument in the hands of God; to be effective he must be docile: he must let God use him and must do what God tells him.
The task God has given him is far beyond Paul's ability--"to carry My name before the Gentiles and kings and sons of Israel". In Acts we will see how Paul fulfills his mission, with the help of God's grace and suffering a great deal on account of His name. Down through the centuries, in diverse circumstance, those whom the Lord elects to carry out specific missions will also be able to perform them if they are good instruments who allow grace to act in them and who are ready to suffer for their ideals.
19. In spite of the exceptional manner in which God called St. Paul, He desired him to mature in the normal way--to be instructed by others and learn God's will through them. In this case he chose Ananias to confer Baptism on Paul and teach him the basics of the Christian faith.
In Ananias we can see a trace of the role of the spiritual director or guide in Christian asceticism. There is a principle which states that "no one can be a good judge in his own case, because everyone judges according to his own inclinations" (cf. Cassian, "Collationes", XVI, 11). A person guiding a soul has a special "grace of state" to make God's will known to him; and even if the guide makes a mistake, the person who is being guided will--if obedient--always do the right thing, always do God's will. In this connection St. Vincent Ferrer says: "Our Lord Jesus Christ, without whom we can do nothing, will not give His grace to him who, though he has access to an expert guide, rejects this precious means of sanctification, thinking that he can look after on his own everything that touches on his salvation. He who has a director, whom he obeys in everything, will reach his goal more easily and more quickly than if he had acted as his own guide, even if he be very intelligent and have the very best of spiritual books" ("Treatise on the Spiritual Life", 2, 1).
On the spiritual guidance of ordinary Christians, who seek holiness and carry out apostolate in the context of everyday life, St Escriva, writes: "A Director. You need one. So that you can give yourself to God, and give yourself fully...by obedience. A director who understands your apostolate, who knows what God wants: that way he will second the work of the Holy Spirit in your soul, without taking you from your place, filling you with peace, and teaching you how to make your work fruitful" ("The Way", 62).
20-23. In his letter to the Galatians (cf. Galatians 1:16f) St. Paul tells of how he went into Arabia after his conversion and then returned to Damascus. He spent almost three years away, and it was on his return that he preached the divinity of Jesus, using all his energy and learning, now placed at the service of Christ. This surprised and confounded the Jews, who immediately began to take action against him.
The Apostle's Mission
 And He (Jesus) said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation.  He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.  And these signs will accompany those who believe: in My name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues;  they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover."
15. This verse contains what is called the "universal apostolic mandate" (paralleled by Matthew 28:19-20 and Luke 24:46-48). This is an imperative command from Christ to His Apostles to preach the Gospel to the whole world. This same apostolic mission applies, especially, to the Apostles' successors, the bishops in communion with Peter's successor, the Pope.
But this mission extends further: the whole "Church was founded to spread the Kingdom of Christ over all the Earth for the glory of God the Father, to make all men partakers in redemption and salvation.... Every activity of the Mystical Body with this in view goes by the name of `apostolate'; the Church exercises it through all its members, though in various ways. In fact, the Christian vocation is, of its nature, a vocation to the apostolate as well. In the organism of a living body no member plays a purely passive part, sharing in the life of the body it shares at the same time in its activity. The same is true for the body of Christ, the Church: `the whole body achieves full growth in dependence on the full functioning of each part' (Ephesians 4:16). Between the members of this body there exists, further, such a unity and solidarity (cf. Ephesians 4:16) that a member who does not work at the growth of the body to the extent of his possibilities must be considered useless both to the Church and to himself.
"In the Church there is diversity of ministry but unity of mission. To the Apostles and their successors Christ has entrusted the office of teaching, sanctifying and governing in His name and by His power. But the laity are made to share in the priestly, prophetical and kingly office of Christ; they have therefore, in the Church and in the world, their own assignment in the mission of the whole people of God" (Vatican II, "Apostolicam Actuositatem", 2).
It is true that God acts directly on each person's soul through grace, but it must also be said that it is Christ's will (expressed here and elsewhere) that men should be an instrument or vehicle of salvation for others.
Vatican II also teaches this: "On all Christians, accordingly, rests the noble obligation of working to bring all men throughout the whole world to hear and accept the divine message of salvation" ("ibid"., 3).
16. This verse teaches that, as a consequence of the proclamation of the Good News, faith and Baptism are indispensable pre-requisites for attaining salvation. Conversion to the faith of Jesus Christ should lead directly to Baptism, which confers on us "the first sanctifying grace, by which original sin is forgiven, and which also forgives any actual sins there may be; it remits all punishment due for these sins; it impresses on the soul the mark of the Christian; it makes us children of God, members of the Church and heirs to Heaven, and enables us to receive the other sacraments" ("St. Pius X Catechism", 553).
Baptism is absolutely necessary for salvation, as we can see from these words of the Lord. But physical impossibility of receiving the rite of Baptism can be replaced by either martyrdom (called, therefore "baptism of blood") or by a perfect act of love of God and of contrition, together with an at least implicit desire to be baptized: this is called "baptism of desire" (cf. "ibid"., 567-568).
Regarding infant Baptism, St. Augustine taught that "the custom of our Mother the Church of infant Baptism is in no way to be rejected or considered unnecessary; on the contrary, it is to be believed on the ground that it is a tradition from the Apostles" ("De Gen. ad litt"., 10, 23, 39). The new "Code of Canon Law" also stresses the need to baptize infants: "Parents are obliged to see that their infants are baptized within the first few weeks. As soon as possible after the birth, indeed even before it, they are to approach the parish priest to ask for the sacrament for their child, and to be themselves duly prepare for it" (Canon 867).
Another consequence of the proclamation of the Gospel, closely linked with the previous one, is that "the Church is necessary", as Vatican II declares: "Christ is the one mediator and way of salvation; He is present to us in His body which is the Church. He Himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and baptism (cf. Mark 16:16; John 3:5), and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through baptism as through a door. Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse to enter it, or to remain in it" ("Lumen Gentium", 14; cf. "Presbyterorum Ordinis", 4; "Ad Gentes", 1-3; "Dignitatis Humanae", 11).
17-18. In the early days of the Church, public miracles of this kind happened frequently. There are numerous historical records of these events in the New Testament (cf., e.g., Acts 3:1-11; 28:3-6) and in other ancient Christian writings. It was very fitting that this should be so, for it gave visible proof or the truth of Christianity. Miracles of this type still occur, but much more seldom; they are very exceptional. This, too, is fitting because, on the one hand, the truth of Christianity has been attested to enough; and, on the other, it leaves room for us to merit through faith. St. Jerome comments: "Miracles were necessary at the beginning to confirm people in the faith. But, once the faith of the Church is confirmed, miracles are not necessary" ("Comm. in Marcum, in loc."). However, God still works miracles through saints in every generation, including our own.
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