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Sunday, May 18, 2003

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Fifth Sunday of Easter

Acts 9:26-31
1 John 3:18-24
Psalm 22:26-32
John 15:1-8

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hope for the worst

Barnabas "explained to them how on his journey Saul had seen the Lord, Who had conversed with him, and how Saul had been speaking fearlessly in the name of Jesus in Damascus." —Acts 9:27

Paul (Saul) was "a blasphemer, a persecutor, a man filled with arrogance" (1 Tm 1:13). He was an accomplice in the murder of Stephen (Acts 8:1). Instead of repenting after seeing Stephen's skull crushed by boulders, Paul was trying to destroy the Church. "He entered house after house, dragged men and women out, and threw them into jail" (Acts 8:3). When Paul heard children screaming while he dragged their Christian parents off to jail, he may have fulfilled the prophecy of Jesus: "A time will come when anyone who puts you to death will claim to be serving God!" (Jn 16:2) Paul considered himself to be the "worst" sinner (1 Tm 1:15) and "an extreme case" (1 Tm 1:16). Paul was so evil that almost all the early Christians found it hard to believe that he was really converted (Acts 9:26).

Nevertheless, Paul's conversion was authentic. It continues to be a sign of hope and "an example to those who would later have faith" (1 Tm 1:16). No matter how trapped you are in sin, the Lord can free and transform you. Look what he did for Paul, a worse sinner than you! No matter how discouraged you feel about some of your family and friends, the Lord has changed and will change the most hardened hearts. There is hope in the saving grace, shed blood, and divine mercy of the Lord. Pray in faith. "Rejoice in hope" (Rm 12:12).

Prayer:  Father, may my deepest desire be that all people be saved and come to know the truth (1 Tm 2:4).

Promise:  "I am the Vine, you are the branches. He who lives in Me and I in him, will produce abundantly, for apart from Me you can do nothing." —Jn 15:5

Praise:  Praise the Lord, Who alone reads hearts and still loves us.

Nihil Obstat:  Reverend Giles H. Pater, October 17, 2002

Imprimatur:  †Most Reverend Carl K. Moeddel, Vicar General and Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, October 21, 2002