In our first reading from Acts, we first hear of a dramatic encounter between the Risen Jesus and Saul, who was persecuting the early Christians. Saul has been blinded, and Jesus sends His disciple Ananias to lay hands on Saul so he can regain his sight. Ananias has misgivings about Saul but goes as Jesus tells him. And after Saul regains his sight, he begins to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ. Obviously, Saul’s encounter with Jesus changes his life.
In our Gospel reading from John, Jesus continues His discourse on being the Bread of Life. The passage that we hear today indicates a shift towards the Eucharist: “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat of the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you … For my flesh is true food, and my blood true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.” It may not seem as dramatic as Saul’s conversion, but we, like Saul, encounter Jesus, in the Eucharist. And again, like Saul, our encounter with Jesus, though not as earth-shaking as Saul’s, is meant to change our lives.
And, like Ananias, we are called to trust in Jesus, and go out, bringing healing to others, and helping restore sight to those who cannot see that they are loved.
In some of the parishes I visit, the people say some prayers, such as the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel, or the Divine Praises, after the conclusion of Mass. Perhaps we could say a prayer before the start of Mass. It would be the words used by Abraham, Isaiah, and our fellow disciple Ananias in today’s reading: “Here I am, Lord.”
Fr. Phil Paxton, C.P., is the local superior of the Passionist Community in Birmingham, Alabama.