Wednesday, January 25, 2017

#PopeFrancis "..follow Jesus today and to live a new life in him." at #Vespers FULL TEXT + Video

Pope Francis’ message to members of different Christian Churches gathered in the Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls on Wednesday. The Pope lead Vespers for the solemnity of the Conversion of St Paul and the close of the annual week of prayer for Christian unity. Text from Vatican Radio:
Please find below the full English text of Pope Francis’ homily at Vespers for the Conversion of St Paul
Encountering Jesus on the road to Damascus radically transformed the life of Saint Paul. Henceforth, for him, the meaning of life would no longer consist in trusting in his own ability to observe the Law strictly, but rather in cleaving with his whole being to the gracious and unmerited love of God: to Jesus Christ, crucified and risen. Paul experienced the inbreaking of a new life, life in the Spirit. By the power of the risen Lord, he came to know forgiveness, confidence and consolation. Nor could Paul keep this newness to himself. He was compelled by grace to proclaim the good news of the love and reconciliation that God offers fully in Christ to all humanity.
For the Apostle of the Gentiles, reconciliation with God, whose ambassador he became (cf. 2 Cor 5:20), is a gift from Christ. This is evident in the text of the Second Letter to the Corinthians which inspired the theme of this year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity: “Reconciliation – The Love of Christ Compels Us” (cf. 2 Cor 5:14-20). “The love of Christ”: this is not our love for Christ, but rather Christ’s love for us. Nor is the reconciliation to which we are compelled simply our own initiative. Before all else it is the reconciliation that God offers us in Christ. Prior to any human effort on the part of believers who strive to overcome their divisions, it is God’s free gift. As a result of this gift, each person, forgiven and loved, is called in turn to proclaim the Gospel of reconciliation in word and deed, to live and bear witness to a reconciled life.

Today, in the light of this, we can ask: How do we proclaim this Gospel of reconciliation after centuries of division? Paul himself helps us to find the way. He makes clear that reconciliation in Christ requires sacrifice. Jesus gave his life by dying for all. Similarly, ambassadors of reconciliation are called, in his name, to lay down their lives, to live no more for themselves but for Christ who died and was raised for them (cf. 2 Cor 5:14-15). As Jesus teaches, it is only when we lose our lives for love of him that we truly save them (cf. Lk 9:24). This was the revolution experienced by Paul, but it is, and always has been, the Christian revolution. We live no longer for ourselves, for our own interests and “image”, but in the image of Christ, for him and following him, with his love and in his love.
For the Church, for every Christian confession, this is an invitation not to be caught up with programmes, plans and advantages, not to look to the prospects and fashions of the moment, but rather to find the way by constantly looking to the Lord’s cross. For there we discover our programme of life. It is an invitation to leave behind every form of isolation, to overcome all those temptations to self-absorption that prevent us from perceiving how the Holy Spirit is at work outside our familiar surroundings. Authentic reconciliation between Christians will only be achieved when we can acknowledge each other’s gifts and learn from one another, with humility and docility, without waiting for the others to learn first.
If we experience this dying to ourselves for Jesus’ sake, our old way of life will be a thing of the past and, like Saint Paul, we will pass over to a new form of life and fellowship. With Paul, we will be able to say: “the old has passed away” (2 Cor 5:17).
To look back is helpful, and indeed necessary, to purify our memory, but to be fixated on the past, lingering over the memory of wrongs done and endured, and judging in merely human terms, can paralyze us and prevent us from living in the present. The word of God encourages us to draw strength from memory and to recall the good things the Lord has given us. But it also asks us to leave the past behind in order to follow Jesus today and to live a new life in him. Let us allow him, who makes all things new (cf. Rev 21:5), to unveil before our eyes a new future, open to the hope that does not disappoint, a future in which divisions can be overcome and believers, renewed in love, will be fully and visibly one.
This year, in our journey on the road to unity, we recall in a special way the fifth centenary of the Protestant Reformation. The fact that Catholics and Lutherans can nowadays join in commemorating an event that divided Christians, and can do so with hope, placing the emphasis on Jesus and his work of atonement, is a remarkable achievement, thanks to God and prayer, and the result of fifty years of growing mutual knowledge and ecumenical dialogue.
As we implore from God the gift of reconciliation with him and with one another, I extend cordial and fraternal greetings to His Eminence Metropolitan Gennadios, the representative of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, to His Grace David Moxon, the personal representative in Rome of the Archbishop of Canterbury, and to all the representatives of the various Churches and Ecclesial Communities gathered here. I am especially pleased to greet the members of the joint Commission for theological dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Churches, and to offer my good wishes for the fruitfulness of the plenary session taking place in these days. I also greet the students of the Ecumenical Institute of Bossey, who are visiting Rome to deepen their knowledge of the Catholic Church, and the Orthodox and Eastern Orthodox young people studying in Rome thanks to the scholarships provided by the Committee for Cultural Collaboration with Orthodox Churches, based in the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. To the superiors and staff of this Dicastery I express my esteem and gratitude.
Dear brothers and sisters, our prayer for Christian unity is a sharing in Jesus’ own prayer to the Father, on the eve of his passion, “that they may all be one” (Jn 17:21). May we never tire of asking God for this gift. With patient and trusting hope that the Father will grant all Christians the gift of full visible communion, let us press forward in our journey of reconciliation and dialogue, encouraged by the heroic witness of our many brothers and sisters, past and present, who were one in suffering for the name of Jesus. May we take advantage of every occasion that Providence offers us to pray together, to proclaim together, and together to love and serve, especially those who are the most poor and neglected in our midst.

#PopeFrancis "We knock at the doors of God’s heart, He is Father, He can save us." at Audience FULL TEXT + Video

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!
Outstanding among the figures of women that the Old Testament presents to us, is that of a great heroine of the people: Judith. The biblical Book that bears her name talks about the imposing military campaign of King Nebuchadnezzar who, reigning in Nineveh, extended the borders of the empire, defeating and enslaving all the surrounding peoples. The reader understands he is before a great, invincible enemy, which is sowing death and destruction and which arrives at the Promised Land, putting in danger the life of the children of Israel.
In fact, Nebuchadnezzar’s army, under the leadership of General Holofernes, besieges Bethulia, cutting the water supply and thus sapping the population’s resistance.
The situation became dramatic, to the point that the inhabitants of the city turned to the elders asking them to surrender to their enemies. Theirs were desperate words: “There is no one to help us now! God has sold us into their hands by laying us prostrate before them in thirst and utter exhaustion. So now, summon them and deliver the whole city as plunder to the troops of Holofernes and to all his forces”

For now we have no one to help us; God has sold us into their hands, to strew us on the ground before them with thirst and utter destruction. Now call them in and surrender the whole city to the army of Holofernes and to all his forces, to be plundered” (Judith 7:25-26). The end seemed ineluctable; the capacity to trust God was exhausted. And how many times we come to the limit of situations, where we do not even feel the capacity to have trust in the Lord. It is an awful temptation! And, paradoxically, it seems that, to flee from death, they had to hand themselves over to the hands of those that kill. They know that these soldiers will enter to plunder the city, to take the women as slaves and then kill all the others.
And in face of such despair, the head of the people attempts to propose a pretext for hope: to hold out for five more days, awaiting God’s saving intervention. But it is a weak hope, which makes him conclude: “But if these days pass by, and no help comes to us, I will do what you say” (7:31). Poor soul: he was without a way out. God is granted five days — and here is the sin– five days are granted to God to intervene; five days of waiting, but now with the prospect of the end. They grant God five days to save them, but they know they do not have confidence, they expect the worst. In reality, no one among the people is still capable of hoping anymore. They were desperate.
It is in this situation that Judith appears on the scene. A widow, a woman of great beauty and wisdom, she speaks to the people with the language of faith. Courageous, she reproves the people to their face (saying): “You are putting the Almighty to the test, […]. No, my brethren, do not provoke the Lord our God to anger. For if He does not choose to help us within these five days, He has power to protect us within any time He pleases, or even to destroy us in the presence of our enemies. […] Therefore, while we wait for His deliverance, let us call upon Him to help us, and He will hear our voice, if it pleases Him” (8:13.14-15.17). It is the language of hope. We knock at the doors of God’s heart, He is Father, He can save us. This woman, a widow, risks looking bad before the others! But she is courageous! She goes ahead! This is my opinion: women are more courageous than men (Applause in the Hall).
And with the strength of a prophet, Judith recalls the men of her people to lead them back to trust in God; with the look of a prophet, she sees beyond the narrow horizon proposed by the heads and which fear renders even more limited. God will certainly act — she affirms –, whereas the proposal of five days of waiting is a way to tempt Him and to withdraw from His will. The Lord is God of salvation, — and she believes it — whatever form it takes. It is salvation to be liberated from enemies and to make one live but, in His impenetrable plans, it can also be salvation to be delivered to death. She, woman of faith, knows it. Then we learn the end, how the story ended: God saves <them>.
Dear brothers and sisters let us never put conditions to God and, instead, let hope conquer our fears. To trust God means to enter in His designs without pretending anything, accepting also that His salvation and His help may reach us in a different way from our expectations. We ask the Lord for life, health, affections, happiness, and it is right to do so, but in the awareness that God is able to draw life also from death, that peace can be experienced also in sickness, and that there can be serenity also in solitude and blessedness also in weeping. It is not we who can teach God what He must do, what we are in need of. He knows it better than us, and we must trust Him, because His ways and His thoughts are different from ours.
The way that Judith indicates to us is that of trust, of waiting in peace, of prayer and of obedience. It is the way of hope, without easy resignations, doing everything that is in our possibilities, but always remaining in the furrow of the Lord’s will, because – we know it –. she prayed so much, she spoke so much to the people and then, courageous, she left, she sought a way to approach the head of the army and she succeeded in cutting off his head, in slaughtering him. She is courageous in faith and in works. And she always seeks the Lord! Judith, in fact, has her plan, she implements it with success and leads the people to victory, but always in the attitude of faith of one who accepts everything from God’s hand, certain of His goodness.
Thus, a woman full of faith and courage gives back strength to her people in mortal danger and leads them on the ways of hope. And we, if we exercise our memory a bit, how many times have we heard wise courageous words from humble persons, from humble women that one thinks — without scorning them — are ignorant … but they are words of the wisdom of God! — the words of grandparents … How many times grandparents are able to say the right word. The word of hope, because they have the experience of life, they have suffered so much, they have entrusted themselves to God and the Lord gives us this gift of the counsel of hope. And, going on those ways, it will be joy and paschal light to entrust oneself to the Lord with Jesus’ words: “Father, if thou art willing, remove this cup from me; nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done” (Luke 22:42). And this is the prayer of wisdom, of trust and of hope.
[Original text: Italian] [Translation by ZENIT]
In Italian
A warm welcome goes to the Italian-speaking pilgrims. In particular, I greet the Religious Families present here, especially the Provincial Superiors of the Minor Friars. I greet the Association of the State Police of Caserta and the Saint Stephen Confraternity of Rieti. I encourage all to be faithful to Christ, so that the joy of the Gospel can shine in society.
A special thought goes to young people, the sick and newlyweds. Today we celebrate the Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul. Dear young people, may Paul’s figure be for all of you a model of missionary discipleship. Dear sick, offer your sufferings for the cause of unity of the Church of Christ. And you, dear newlyweds, be inspired by the example of the Apostle to the Gentiles, acknowledging the primacy of God and His love in your family life.
[Original text: Italian] [Translation by ZENIT]

#Novena to St. Paul for Conversion - #Prayers for #Conversion to SHARE

Blessed Apostle Paul, who labored so zealously for the conversion of the Gentiles in many lands, obtain for us a perpetual zeal for the salvation of souls and especially enkindle our interest in the conversion of our separated brethern. Ever mindful of the interest that our Divine Lord, the Good Shepherd, has for the other sheep not of His fold, I now beg your intercession and obtain for me the gift of the true faith for ............. (Pause here and name relatives and friends) May God grant this request so close to my heart and thus enable me to extend to another what I so richly enjoy, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen Father in Heaven through the mystical wounds of Your Son Jesus have mercy on the souls who visit my web pages. Whoever visits this site is automatically prayed for night and day as long as I live God knows who you are and He will apply your petitions. My motto is I will not let the devil have my family, or any family. My soul or any soul, if I can prevent it, through prayer, sacrifice and pain and despair. I will fight the devil tooth and nail, till I take my last breath and then fight him from heaven for souls here on earth Say for 9 days: say 1 Our Father, 1 Hail Mary and 1 Glory be each day in addition to above prayers.

Today's Mass Readings and Video : Wed. January 25, 2017

Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul, Apostle

Lectionary: 519

Reading 1ACTS 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.'"

OrACTS 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 PsalmPS 117:1BC, 2

R. (Mark 16:15) Go out to all the world and tell the Good News.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Praise the LORD, all you nations;
glorify him, all you peoples!
R. Go out to all the world, and tell the Good News.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
For steadfast is his kindness toward us,
and the fidelity of the LORD endures forever.
R. Go out to all the world, and tell the Good News.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

AlleluiaJN 15:16

R. Alleluia, alleluia.I chose you from the world,
to go and bear fruit that will last, says the Lord.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

GospelMK 16:15-18

Jesus appeared to the Eleven and said to them:
"Go into the whole world
and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.
Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved;
whoever does not 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 pick up serpents with their hands,
and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them.
They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover."