Conversion of St. Paul
Paul's entire life can be explained in terms of one experience—his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus. In an instant, he saw that all the zeal of his dynamic personality was being wasted, like the strength of a boxer swinging wildly. Perhaps he had never seen Jesus, who was only a few years older. But he had acquired a zealot's hatred of all Jesus stood for, as he began to harass the Church: "...entering house after house and dragging out men and women, he handed them over for imprisonment" (Acts 8:3b). Now he himself was "entered," possessed, all his energy harnessed to one goal—being a slave of Christ in the ministry of reconciliation, an instrument to help others experience the one Savior.
One sentence determined his theology: "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting" (Acts 9:5b). Jesus was mysteriously identified with people—the loving group of people Saul had been running down like criminals. Jesus, he saw, was the mysterious fulfillment of all he had been blindly pursuing.
From then on, his only work was to "present everyone perfect in Christ. For this I labor and struggle, in accord with the exercise of his power working within me" (Colossians 1:28b-29). "For our gospel did not come to you in word alone, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and much conviction" (1 Thessalonians 1:5a).
Paul's life became a tireless proclaiming and living out of the message of the cross: Christians die baptismally to sin and are buried with Christ; they are dead to all that is sinful and unredeemed in the world. They are made into a new creation, already sharing Christ's victory and someday to rise from the dead like him. Through this risen Christ the Father pours out the Spirit on them, making them completely new.
So Paul's great message to the world was: You are saved entirely by God, not by anything you can do. Saving faith is the gift of total, free, personal and loving commitment to Christ, a commitment that then bears fruit in more "works" than the Law could ever contemplate.
Paul is undoubtedly hard to understand. His style often reflects the rabbinical style of argument of his day, and often his thought skips on mountaintops while we plod below. But perhaps our problems are accentuated by the fact that so many beautiful jewels have become part of the everyday coin in our Christian language (see quote, below).
"Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things" (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).
Daily Prayer - 2016-01-25
Lord, help me to be fully alive to your Holy presence.
Dear Lord, instil in my heart
In God's loving presence I unwind the past day,
The Word of God
Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul, Apostle
Reading 1 Acts 22:3-16
Paul addressed the people in these words:
Or Acts 9:1-22
Saul, still breathing murderous threats against the disciples of the Lord,
Responsorial Psalm PS 117:1bc, 2
R. (Mark 16:15) Go out to all the world and tell the Good News.
Alleluia See Jn 15:16
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel Mk 16:15-18
Jesus appeared to the Eleven and said to them:
Some thoughts on today's scripture
What is stirring in me as I pray?
I thank God for these few moments we have spent alone together and for any insights I may have been given concerning the text.
The Conversion of Saint Paul the Apostle (Feast)
Why delay? (Acts 22:16)
Think of two newlyweds. They may tell their friends about the fireworks that went off when they first met. Perhaps she talks about how she first saw him at a dance and was "knocked off her feet." Perhaps he tells of how he was so nervous that he barely knew what to say to her. It's all so exciting, but there is much more to their story than these first impressions. There was a first date, followed by many more dates, phone calls, and long conversations. It took a while before they were ready for marriage.
That progression also applies to St. Paul. As we see in today's reading, the day he met Jesus was the most unforgettable day of his life. It literally knocked him off his feet! He went from a sworn enemy of Christianity to one of its greatest champions.
Again, it didn't stop there. Paul had many more encounters with Jesus that we aren't told about. Some may not have been as dramatic as his first one, but each one was still important in its own right. And with each encounter, his knowledge and love of the Lord grew.
Maybe you had a dramatic conversion experience like Paul's. Or maybe your "conversion" was more gradual and unfolded over the course of many years. Whatever your situation, know that you are not finished encountering Jesus. He has more to give you. He has more to teach you.
Imagine the marvel that occurs every time you come into his presence, whether in your private prayer, at Adoration, or in the Mass. Jesus Christ, Lord of the universe, comes down from heaven to be present to you—no matter who you are or what you have done or failed to do. He comes to show you his love more deeply. He comes to give you courage and strength to face your challenges. He comes to give you a taste of his peace. And most important, he comes to join you to himself more deeply.
So why delay? Today—and every day—is a perfect opportunity to meet Jesus and be more deeply converted to him.
"Lord, help me to encounter you in a special way today. Fill me with your fire, and give me a new boldness to spread your gospel of peace."
This past Sunday we read that we are one body, in one spirit. Today, the Lord our God, Jesus, He spoke to Saul in a great light, all he could see was light and the light spoke "'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?'". Saul was like "who are you?" Keep in mind, this Saul was an all knower of God right? He grew up and was zealous for righteousness. Then, righteousness appeared...Jesus. Saul didn't see His face. Saul didn't shake His hand. Saul didn't eat with Him. Saul just heard Him. Saul just realized he was in the light...what is truly right...Jesus. In all your doubts and in all your thinkings, the only right is Jesus, the light. How can you lock up other people? Just because they don't believe? How many of us do this? We discard them for not believing instead of reaching out to them. Saul, as zealous as he was, was about to take his faith to the next level, from being the pursuer, to the one being persecuted in the name of Jesus the Christ, in the name of love. How many of us are ready for this light? Is it the right time in your life for this light? Yes. Yes, it hasn't passed, it is now, and now always.
Go out to all the world and tell the good news. The good news always is Jesus, the Gospels are the Good News. How will this light up your day? Will it knock you off your high horse? Will it make you blind to what the world wants you to see and believe? Will this good news be the warmth of your heart? Our beautiful Lord said it over and over, to go out to the ends of the earth and baptize, tell the good news, "I have come to save them, I have come to be with them". Anyone lift a finger against His people is laying hands on Christ Himself. And you? Who are you daring to lift a finger and raise your voice at? I know of several that yell at the priest and make him cry, and that saddens the rest, like children with their father. How many do you know that put down others? It's the same thing spiritually as locking them up in jail. This is not the good news. The good news is of a giving and saving Lord. Are you willing to give now that you will be changed, even your name? What if your name isn't really who you think you are? God has more in store...
In comes the Lord of our lives, ""Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature." If you are a parent, are you proclaiming the Gospel to your children? Every day? By the way you live? By the way you talk? By the way you...walk? Because God walks a certain funny way. Learn how to walk that way. Learn the quirks of His smile. Learn how extremely giving He is. We live in extreme debt. Don't think about money right now, don't think about our country right now, and don't think about your financial situation. We live in an extreme debt to our Lord. We could never repay Him. NEVER, for our sins, and if you think you have none, then, you better pray for the light to shine those dark spots in your life. This thought should open our eyes, to be able to go into the WHOLE WORLD and proclaim the Gospel to ever creature. It is the least we could do. But do you? How can I proclaim every day to my co-workers? Some of them avoid me. Some of them I've tried. Some of them I can't seem to relate to. Some of them don't listen. Sounds like you've given up. How can I proclaim as a housewife? How can I proclaim the Gospel? Do I have to sit on streetcorners? We can't all do that. But we can all do our part. And that part is what we're after here. Have you given up? I just opened up randomly the book "The Imitation of Christ" to let the Lord answer that question for us, and it read: "The noble love of Jesus urges us to do great things and spurs us on to desire perfection. Love tends upward to God and is not occupied with the things of the earth. Love also will be free from all worldly affections, so that its inner vision does not become dimmed, nor does it let itself be trapped by any temporal interest or downcast by misfortune". If the Lord does not give up, then who am I to give up? This is the question for you who believe He has not answered your prayer. Because among His body are those praying for you. And even more when you ask for prayer. When the Lord sends us out to proclaim, it is an offering of Himself through you and me, and our acceptance of Him through others. God speaks to me. He does. How? Through others. How do I know God loves me? When you show me. How does God know I love Him? When I love you. Those who believe will do amazing things, like drive out demons, speak new languages, pick up serpents, and lay hands on others to be healed. Do you believe? Because Jesus said "Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father." Every creature is waiting. Are you waiting too? In spanish waiting is said like "esperando" which is the same as being pregnant. And when a woman gives birth it is said "dio luz", she gave light. And this is the new life. This light is new life. Saul the sinner turned into Saint Paul. Let the light consume you and listen and be made new!
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