Monday, 12 May 2014

Sight, St. Paul and the New Evangelization - A Homily at Newman Centre, Toronto

Annanias lays hands on Saul (Paul) for healing.
In the reading from the Acts of the Apostles today we hear again the story of St. Paul in his encounter with the risen Christ.  I want to think with you for a few minutes about what happened after the famous event on the Road to Damascus and what we call the New Evangelization in our day.

Following his encounter with the risen Christ, Paul was blind.  In Damascus he had a dream that someone would come to him and lay hands on him “that he might regain his sight.” No doubt he hoped that the person – identified as Ananias – would really come with some news of hope and bring to him some kind of healing so that Paul might recover his sight.
Chapel of Saul's healing, Damascus, Syria
Addressing  those present for his Mass in the Vatican’s Saint Martha guesthouse this week, Pope Francis spoke referring to the importance of evangelizing – i.e. sharing the news that Christ has defeated the power of death and that we need not live in fear but with the vision, the sight of God’s kingdom for which we work and in which is our eternal hope. 

It is a vision that must be shared. Just as Ananias was the instrument of Paul’s healing by the laying on of hands in prayer and by sharing with him how Saul the persecutor (now Paul) was called to evangelize others for the risen Lord.  Ananias was evangelizing Paul, incorporating him into the Evangel, the good news of our healing and salvation, through the power of the risen Lord.

Describing how it is God calls us into relationships with people, Pope Francis said this week: “You can’t evangelize without dialogue. It’s impossible. You must begin from where the person comes from,” he observed, “this is so important.”

Listening to people sharing their blindness or sin or sorrow will allow you to be an agent for the healing of the Holy Spirit and helping to incorporate them into a community of grace and healing.

Stating that some might say, “But father, we waste so much time because every person has his or her own story, he or she comes with their own ideas,”  Pope Francis’ responded: “Spend time with that person because that person is who God wants you to evangelize,” Then he added that its important to share our own understanding of the risen Lord. We must share with  them “according to who he or she is, not how they should be: [but] how he or she is right now.”

Continuing, the Holy Father encouraged people to think about three “moments of evangelization,” naming them as:

+“the docility to evangelize, to do what God is requesting,”
+ “secondly, a dialogue with people”  beginning from where these people find themselves.

+ “And thirdly, trusting in grace: Grace is more important than all the bureaucracy [of the Church].”

Above all Pope Francis urged: “Spend time with [each person you encounter] because that person is who God wants you to evangelize."
The Gate of St. Paul, Damascus

St. Paul was brought to healing through the evangelization of Ananias who spent time with him in his blindness until Paul found sight and healing – then he himself became the great evangelist.    Thanks be to God.

Homily at Friday noon Mass, May 9, 2024 
St. Thomas Aquinas Chapel, Newman Centre, Toronto

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