The responsory that you and I have recited after listening to the first reading, should be the theme to dominate our thoughts and actions the entire day today. “For ever I will sing the goodness of the Lord.” Although not all of us can sing well, and certainly no one of us can live forever on this earth, yet this live applies to everyone of us most appropriately and compellingly.
Paul, about whom is the first reading, may not have been a good singer nor is he alive anymore on earth for a long, long time. But he can say ever since those words truthfully, “For ever I will sing the goodness of the Lord.” Why do you think he can do that? Because now in heaven, he continues forever the song he started to sing when he was on earth. We ask further, “What good did God do to him so that he felt he must sing forever his goodness?” they are countless. He should know better. I, for one, can mention his conversion, on the basis of the first reading today.
Had Paul continued the kind of life he was leading before his conversion, we do not know how he would have ended up. He was a Pharisees of the fanatic type who thought he was doing a great service to God by stamping out Christianity. His sphere of action and misplaced fervor was then the tiny country of Palestine, home of Judaism.
But God had mercy on Paul and made him see the light. His hatred for the Christians had kept him in the darkness of fanatism. But now he is freed, ransomed by the Lord Jesus from that prison. God transformed him from a persecutor of Christians to a propagator of Christianity, assigning to him the whole world as the arena of his actions. For his transformation, Paul could sing forever the goodness of the Lord.
Henceforth, he would motivate all who cared to listen to his preaching or to read his letters to join with him in singing forever the goodness of the Lord. Thus, what do we hear about Paul in today’s first reading? He sets about for his first missionary journey that takes him to Antioch of Pisidia. He talks to his fellow Jews of the good God has been doing to them at every stage of the history of their nation, form the time their ancestor Abraham was chosen by God to the time Jesus the Messiah was sent to them. The continuous imparting of divine favors on the Israelites should therefore be a strong motive for them to sing forever the goodness of the Lord.
But it is not only Jewish communities around the world that were the concern of Paul. He would also strive to convert and talk to the wider world of the Gentiles (or write to them when his physical presence was not possible) in order that they too, along with the converted Jews, may sing forever the goodness of the Lord. So, if according to Paul the Jews, the Gentiles, all creation are forever singing the goodness of the Lord, where does that leaves us, Christian of today? In today’s gospel Jesus says, “He who accepts anyone I send accepts me, and in accepting me accepts the father who sent me.” God has sent us and continues sending us peoples, things, events, crosses, trials, joys, sorrows, all of which talk to us about the goodness of the Lord. Therefore, let us sing forever to him.