25 January 2016
Conversion of St. Paul, Apostle
Feast. White. Acts 9:1 – 22 (or Acts 22: 3 -16). Mark 16:15 – 18.
From the 1st Reading: Acts 9: 1 - 20
Meanwhile Saul considered nothing but violence and death for the disciples of the Lord. . . .
As he traveled along and was approaching 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 do you persecute me?' And he asked, "Who are you, Lord?" The voice replied, "I am Jesus, whom you persecute. Now get up and go into the city; there you will be told what you are to do."
The men who were travelling with him stood speechless: they had heard the sound but could see no one. Saul got up from the ground and, opening his eyes, he could not see. . . .
There was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias, to whom the Lord called in a vision, "Ananias!" He answered, "Here I am, Lord!" Then the Lord said to him, "Go at once to Straight Street and ask, at the house of Judas, for a man of Tarsus named Saul. You will find him praying, for he has seen in a vision that a man named Ananias has come in and placed his hands upon him to restore his sight."
Ananias answered, "Lord, I have heard from many sources about this man and all the harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem, and now he is here with authority from the High Priest to arrest all who call upon your name." But the Lord said to him, "Go! This man is my chosen instrument to bring my name to the pagan nations and their kings, and the people of Israel as well. I myself will show him how much he will have to suffer for my name."
So Ananias left and went to the house. He laid his hands upon Saul and said, "Saul, my brother, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your way here, has sent me so that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit." Immediately something like scales fell from his eyes and he could see; he got up and was baptized. Then he took food and was strengthened. For several days he was with the disciples in Damascus, and he began to proclaim in the synagogues that Jesus was the Son of God.
The conversion of St. Paul from a persecutor to an apostle is probably one of the greatest conversion stories we can find in the Scriptures and has undoubtedly inspired many non-believers to become believers, Christians, from being timid and lifeless to being bold and ablaze with fire, and sinners to eventually become saints.
The first reading from the Acts of the Apostles recounts his conversion. Probably many of us may not be able to relate to the character of St. Paul as some of us might say, "Sinner, yes; but persecutor? No!" Or it may be due to the fact that many of us did not experience conversion in the manner by which St. Paul did, which was both sudden and spectacular. Lastly, some of us may even contend that St. Paul was special -- he was chosen and called -- and we were not. But are we really that different from him?
When we sin, are we not persecuting the Lord? When we continue to hurt our brothers and sisters through our words and deeds, are we not just like Saul? For us to have true conversion, do we need a spectacular event, like Saul, that will stun us and wake us up from our slumber?
What St. Paul's conversion really tells us is that we need God's grace to do God's work in our lives. If with God's grace a cruel persecutor could become the great Apostle to the Gentiles, he can surely work wonders in and through each one of us. We pray for God's grace and loving presence in our lives.
Finally, we pray for one another, for those who have asked our prayers and for those who need our prayers the most.
Have a good day!
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