Friday in the 3rd Week of Easter, April 23, 2021

“Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” This is the question of Jesus the Lord when he lets Saul, the persecutor, encounter him on the way to Damascus. Jesus identifies himself with his persecuted disciples. From that moment on, Saul will serve the Lord, whose life he will live. It is an encounter that radically changed Saul into Paul.
The Lord speaks to us today: “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood live in me and I live in them.” This will be our encounter with Christ. May this encounter be so deep that it changes us.
Opening Prayer
Our living and loving God,
how could we know the depth of your love,
if your Son had not become flesh of our flesh
and blood of our blood?
How could we ever have the courage
to live for one another and if necessary to die,
if he had not given up his body
and shed his blood for us?
Thank you for letting him stay in the Eucharist with us
and making himself our daily bread.
Let this bread be the food that empowers us,
to live and die as he did,
for one another and for you,
our living God, forever and ever. Amen!
1 Reading: ACTS 9:1-20
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.
Responsorial Psalm: Ps 117:1BC, 2
R. (Mark 16:15) Go out to all the world and tell the Good News. or: Alleluia.
Praise the LORD, all you nations;
glorify him, all you peoples! R.
For steadfast is his kindness toward us,
and the fidelity of the LORD endures forever. R.
Alleluia JOHN 6:56
Alleluia, alleluia.
Whoever eats my Flesh and drinks my Blood,
remains in me and I in him, says the Lord.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel: JOHN 6:52-59
The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his Flesh to eat?” Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink his Blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my Flesh and drinks my Blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my Flesh is true food, and my Blood is true drink. Whoever eats my Flesh and drinks my Blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.” These things he said while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.
The dogma of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist is a difficult pill to swallow for many people. “How could this be?” they ask. There is only one answer: Because Jesus said so. At the Last Supper, taking the bread (and wine) Jesus did not say “This is like my body (or like my blood);” rather he said, “This is my body (is my blood)” (Matt 26). The Eucharistic Discourse in John 6 is yet another unambiguous statement from Jesus. For the Jews, eating flesh mingled with blood was an unthinkable abomination. It is to them that Jesus declares that they must eat his flesh and drink his blood. When they took offence, he could have explained to them that it was merely a metaphor. But what does he do? He reaffirms his stance. Father Robert Barron observes that the word Jesus uses for eating his flesh “actually refers to an animalistic mode of eating—gnawing at flesh” (Catholicism Series). Jesus would have smiled in agreement to Flannery O’ Connor’s famous snub to Mary McCarthy’s comment that the Eucharist was a pretty good symbol: “Well, if it’s a symbol, then to hell with it.” But thanks to God, it’s REAL.
For the Church, that the Eucharist may remain the source of its vitality and of its ability to witness to the presence of the Lord in his community, we pray:
For Christians everywhere, that they may hunger and thirst for justice in the world, we pray:
For us here and for all Christians who come together around the Lord’s table, that Christ may unite us heart and soul and make us open tables to one another, we pray:
Prayer over the Gifts
Our loving God,
as a Father who deeply cares,
you invite us to the table of your Son.
He will change our bread into his flesh,
our wine into the drink of life.
Make us one with him,
appease our hunger with his bread
and refresh us with his drink,
that we may live his life
of courage and commitment
and that we may live with him in your love,
now and forever. Amen!
Prayer after Communion
Thank you, God our Father,
for nourishing us on the way to you
with the true bread and drink of life,
your Son, Jesus Christ.
In this and in every Eucharist
let him take on flesh and blood in us
and make us encounter him so deeply,
that we may do for one another
what he has done for us.
Let Christ live in us, now and for ever. Amen!
Saul encountered the Lord and he became a totally new person, completely changed. To Paul! Our encounter with the Lord in the Eucharist should bring about such a change in us. For Jesus told us today: “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood live in me and I in them.” Let him fully live in you, and may Almighty God bless you for this task, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen!

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