Friday, January 25, 2008

Conversion of St. Paul

Now here is someone who had an interesting vocation story!

Today the Church celebrates the feast of the conversion of St. Paul. This well-known (or at least hopefully well-known) story is recorded in the book of Acts, and is also referenced in the Pauline epistles.

Saul of Tarsus was a zealous Pharisee intent on destroying the infant Church. While he was on his way to the city of Damascus to persecute the Christians there, he had a vision of Christ.

After Christ told him "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting", the very next thing our Lord said to Saul was "Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do."*

And that was it! There was no discussion--Jesus simply gave Saul directions. From what I could read from this passage, Saul/St. Paul's "yes" was so immediate that it was basically implied.

Saul was baptized shortly afterwards, and took the name "Paul". He is called an apostle, despite not being one of the original twelve, both because of his intense personal experience of Christ as well as his extraordinary dedication to the spread of the Gospel.

Among the many riches contained in the letters of St. Paul is a beautiful theme of reliance on God's grace. St. Paul's experience of grace was a very tangible reality to him, which is highlighted by some of today's antiphons:

"I know the one whom I have trusted and I am certain that he, the just judge, has the power to keep safe what he has entrusted to me until the Day."

"Paul, my grace is sufficient for you; my power is made perfect in weakness."

"Willingly I glory in my infirmities, that the healing power of God may dwell in me."

I think anyone serious about their Christianity could stop and marvel at the small "miracle" that is their faith. On a personal level, today's feast gave me an opportunity to express my gratitude to God for the most precious gift I have ever received--a chance to live life with Him.

*(cf. Acts 9:6; the New American Bible)

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