Sunday, January 25, 2009

Go Out Into The Whole World, And Proclaim The Good News!

On the Church Calendar, January 25 is the Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul the Apostle. Usually, this feast would not be celebrated when it occurs on a Sunday, but because our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, has declared a Jubilee Year between Saint Paul's feast days, on June 29, 2008 and June 29, 2009 to celebrate the 2,000 years since his birth, he has allowed that, on this January 25, either the Mass of the Feast or the Mass of the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time may be celebrated.

Gentle readers, I don’t know whether the Sunday Mass or the Feast Day Mass will be celebrated in your diocese, so I was wondering whether to prepare two reflections for today. Then I looked at the readings, and found that all of them focus on the same theme. 

I. A reading from the Book of Jonah: The word of the Lord came to Jonah, saying: God to Nineveh, and announce to the people there that forty days from now, the city will be destroyed. Jonah was reluctant to do God’s bidding, so he hired himself out as a deck hand, then got swallowed up by a big fish, and deposited on the shore at Nineveh. At that point, he decided he would do what the Lord had commanded, went to Nineveh, and preached the Lord’s message to them. The people of Nineveh believed God’s message, proclaimed a fast, and repented. Whereupon God withdrew the punishment he had threatened, and did not carry it out.

II. A Reading from the Acts of the Apostles: Paul preached to the people of Tarsus: I am a Jew, born at Tarsus, but brought up in Jerusalem. I was educated by Gamaliel, a Pharisee and teacher of the Law, and was zealous in protecting God’s word against all error. I persecuted the way of Christ, having his disciples arrested and imprisoned. Some were even put to death. Then, while on my way to Damascus to bring back to Jerusalem men and women who belonged to the Way, I heard the voice of Jesus saying, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” I was brought to Ananias, who laid hands on my and I was filled with the Holy Spirit.”

III. A Reading from the Gospel of Mark: Jesus, while walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, saw Simon Peter and his brother Andrew casting their nets into the sea, and called them: Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” They abandoned their nets and followed him. Then, walking further along, he saw James, son of Zebedee, and his brother John, in a boat, mending their nets. He called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired help, and followed him.

IV. A reading from the Gospel of Mark: After the resurrection, Jesus appeared to the Eleven and told them: Go out into the whole world and proclaim the Good News to everyone. Those who believe will be saved; those who refuse to believe will be condemned. These signs will accompany those who believe in my name: They will drive out demons. They will speak new languages. They will lay hands on the sick and heal them.

Look at those whom God chose: A reluctant prophet who ran away to a foreign land, rather than heed his call. A quartet of young boys from Galilee who had no book learning, and no training except in trawling for fish. A Pharisee with a well-established reputation as the most zealous of persecutors of the Way of Jesus.

What did they all have in common? Just the experience of vocation and conversion: or, in words of one syllable: call and change. God does not choose holy people to be his witnesses in the world. He chooses those who are unlearned, and fills them with knowledge; those who are weak, and fills them with courage; those who are on the path to perdition, and leads them to the way of salvation.

And, my dear sisters and brothers, if He can bring about the conversion of Paul of Tarsus, He can make a saint of you as well, even if He must start by knocking you off your high horse!

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