10May 10 May, 2019. Friday, 3rd Week of Easter

Friday of Week 3 of Easter

1st Reading: Acts 9:1-20

On the road to Damascus, Saul converts to the Way

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 who belonged to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” He asked, “Who are you, Lord?” The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” The men who were traveling with him stood speechless because they heard the voice but saw no one. Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. For three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.

At that time there was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias. 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 at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul. At this moment he is praying, and he has seen in a vision 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 your saints in Jerusalem; and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who invoke your name.” But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel; I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” So Ananias went and entered the house. He laid his hands on Saul and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your way here, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and his sight was restored. Then he got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength.

For several days he was with the disciples in Damascus, and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.”

Responsorial: Psalm 116

Response: Go out to all the world, and tell the Good News

O praise the Lord, all you nations,
acclaim him all you peoples! (R./)

Strong is his love for us;
he is faithful for ever. (R./)

Gospel: John 6:52-59

A promise of life: “Whoever eats this bread will live forever”

At that time the Jews disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” So Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.” He said these things while he was teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum.


Persecutor to Promoter

St Paul’s conversion is here described for the first of three times in the Acts of the Apostles (see also 22:4-26; 26:12-18). In the background is the spread of the church beyond Judaism to the wider world. The conversion story is preceded by the baptism of the Ethiopian and it is followed by the conversion of the Roman centurion Cornelius. Both the Ethiopian and Cornelius were baptized without going through the full procedures of becoming Jews by circumcision and by accepting the Jewish dietary laws. The conversion of these foreigners shared an important feature with Saul’s conversion. Each took place because of special, miraculous intervention by God.

Saul had been vigorously opposing the church, in Jerusalem and now he proposed to do so in Damascus. But his conversion would face the disciples of Christ with an entirely new problem. In becoming an apostle to the gentiles, Paul denied the need to be circumcised or to follow many of the Jewish Mosaic laws. This conviction of Paul’s would split the church right down the center. The controversy surfaces in the Epistle to the Galatians and in chapter 15 of Acts. For his convictions, Paul was considered a traitor by his own Jewish family and coreligionists, and he was to be isolated and calumniated even by his Christian community. When Jesus announced to Ananias that Paul “will have to suffer for my name,” he was referring not just to Paul’s eventual martyrdom in Rome but even more to a life of martyrdom within his own church!

Once Paul was converted, there were consequences for both for himself and for the church. A new view of Christianity had to be agreed, to avoid a total split in the church. Though the argument continued for years, the opposing sides were held together by their shared belief in Jesus’ eucharistic presence, and letting the Holy Spirit guide them into a fuller vision of how to present the Gospel to the wider world. This process of a kind of dying to enter a new and greater life is the story of Jesus, of Paul and indeed of each of us.

Questioning Jesus

In our four gospels, many questions are asked and discussed. Some were posed by Jesus himself; others were raised by various people who meet him, whether as friends or as opponents. Today it is some sceptical voices that ask, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” Far from pulling back or refusing to answer such a scornful, dismissive question, Jesus replies that not only should people “eat his flesh” but they should also “drink his blood.” The language of eating the very flesh of Jesus and drinking his blood is paradoxical and shocking. Yet, it is the language of John’s gospel, in his extraordinary chapter 6.

The same Jesus who gave his life for us on the cross, gives himself to us in sacramental form, as our food (and drink) of the Eucharist. He explains that he becomes food and drink so that we may draw life from him. “Whoever eats me will draw life from me.” The life flowing from Jesus as he hung from the cross, symbolized by the blood and water, is conveyed to each of us when we eat his body and drink his blood. We come to the Eucharist to draw life from him, as branches draw life from the vine. We are then sent out from the Eucharist with the mission to live by his life.


Saint Comhgall, bishop

Comhgall (c. 520-602) from Co Antrim, was educated under Fintan of Clonenagh and also studied under Finnian of Movilla, Mobhí Clárainech at Glasnevin, and Ciarán of Clonmacnoise. Initially intending to go as a missionary to Britain, Comgall was dissuaded by his bishop, at whose advice he remained in Ireland to spread the monastic life throughout the country. He founded a monastery at Bangor, County Down on the southern shore of Belfast Lough.

2 Responses

  1. Bernadette Maguire

    May God Bless your work.
    We have a parish priest who only gives homilies for daily Mass on the lessons and not on the Gospels. Is this normal? as a response from the Gospels would be so transforming if related to the readings. Thanks. Bernadette

  2. Pat Rogers

    Dear Bernadette,
    The homily may be based on any part of the Liturgy of the Word. Sometimes it will focus on the first Reading, or on some element in the Psalm. In general, I try to find some theme, or even contrast, to link the Gospel with the Reading; but that’s not always feasible.
    In this Resource section, there’s usually a short reflection arising from the first Reading, and another based on the Gospel. Perhaps you could find a way to tactfully help your local priest to peer into the ACP website from time to time?!

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