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THE CONVERSION OF SAUL

Today’s First Reading:  Acts 9:1-20 – THIRD WEEK OF EASTER: Friday, 20 April 2018 

We can appreciate the hesitation of Ananias in meeting Paul. One would have a quite a few initial questions to ask him first. This conversion of Saul was a critical event in the Church’s expansion. It is reported three times in the New Testament. The difficulty of reaching out to the Gentiles is shown from the fact that a miraculous intervention was required at each step forward.

This event was also important for Paul. He who had persecuted the Church suddenly experienced faith, the Lord’s love and freedom from the Torah Law all flooding in on him at once. And it was all free. This experience gave unity to his later life and theology. How did it change him? There would still be disagreements and bouts with his temper. It would take a while for this experience to sink in.

The same is true for us. We have our religious experiences and afterwards our personal limitations do not completely disappear. There are many little turnings in our life over a lifespan which is called to be an en bloc transformation in Christ. This gradual process gives unity to our life.

Paul’s conversion did not make him an instant saint. He was a saint only at the end of his life. The same is true of us. We become holy by gradual transformation.

Jakarta, 20 April 2018

A Christian Pilgrim

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PROVERBS 29:25

Jakarta, 20 April 2018

A Christian Pilgrim

 

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THE ETHIOPIAN OFFICIAL BELIEVED AND WAS BAPTIZED

Today’s First Reading: Acts 8:26-40 – THIRD WEEK OF EASTER: Thursday, 19 April 2018

In today’s first reading, we see the further movement of the Gospel from Jerusalem to Ethiopia in the person of the eunuch. Just as Jews wanted nothing to do with Samaritans, they wanted even less to do with eunuchs. This official is reading an Old Testament passage that becomes the basis for the deacon Philip’s teaching and baptism.

We have considered how people are drawn to the Lord. We might examine how they drift away from the Lord and from the Church. As in Philip’s time, many today have never really heard the Gospel. There  is a phenomenal religious illiteracy among people. This is  one reason for the growth of a specific apostolate of evangelization – to bring the Gospel to people for the very first time. It has been said that of every hundred Catholics in the territory of  a given parish, fifty will come to Church weekly, twenty-five will come regularly and the rest will not come at all. How then do people come back to the Lord and to the Church?

Jakarta, 19 April 2018

A Christian Pilgrim

 

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PROVERBS 14:26

Jakarta, 19 April 2018

A Christian Pilgrim

 

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THE FIRST GREAT MISSIONARY MOVEMENT IN THE EARLY CHURCH

Today’s First Reading: Acts 8:1-8 – THIRD WEEK OF EASTER: Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Today’s first reading tells us that “a certain day” saw the beginning of a great persecution of the Church in Jerusalem. That day was the day Stephen was murdered or “executed”. But who was persecuting whom? Evidently, the Twelve were safe. It was the Sanhedrin Jews who were persecuting the Greek-speaking Christian Jews.

Our scene switches to Philip the deacon on his way to Samaria. The Samaritans were the half-breeds hated by the orthodox Jews of Jerusalem. Unlike Jerusalem which persecuted the Christians, the Samaritans are receptive to and enthusiastic about the Gospel. The persecution had the ironic effect of helping to spread the Gospel, in its Hellenistic version. Had Christians not been persecuted in Jerusalem, they would never have gone to Samaria – at least so early – to preach the good news about Jesus. 

The contrast between the sophisticated and unbelieving Jerusalem and the uncomplicated Samaritans reminds us that a simple, uncomplicated faith is what saves. Very often, a theoretical, academic approach to faith does not enhance our understanding but distances us from our original saving faith experience of the Lord.

Jakarta, 18 April 2018

A Christian Pilgrim

 

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1 JOHN 2:10 (KJV)

Jakarta, 18 April 2018

A Christian Pilgrim

 

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AS JESUS’ DISCIPLES, WE MUST ALSO GIVE FRESH LIFE TO OLD SYMBOLS

Today’s Gospel Reading: John 6:30-35 – THIRD WEEK OF EASTER: Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Jesus not only gave new life to old symbols, such as the manna in the desert, but He gave a new covenant in which the Bread of Life would be available to every person. This entire intermediary system of Judaistic practices would be gone and the Lord would come to each individual directly as food. And, “The effect of our sharing in the body and blood of Christ is to change us into what we receive” (Pope Saint Leo the Great).

The result of Stephen’s speech was not a personal triumph. He was stoned to death and it signalled the beginning of the break with the synagogue. But standing nearby was Saul. Stephen’s  message took root deep in Saul’s heart. The themes of freedom from Law, Law as ministry of death, the letter of the Law as a killer while its spirit gives life would all reappear in his letters.

The example we give, like that of Stephen, has a rebound effect. We also give fresh life to old symbols. People see the great truths of Christianity in a fresh way in our lives. Each of us is fresh expression of the Gospel message.

Jakarta, 17 April 2018

A Christian Pilgrim

 

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