25TH JANUARY 2022
Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul, Apostle
On the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, both of the two options for the First Reading (Acts 22:3-16 or Acts 9:1-22) recount the story of the conversion of St. Paul. What strikes most is Paul’s determination. Concerning his life, Paul, the “Apostle to the Gentiles” and the greatest missionary of the Apostolic age, was a Roman citizen by his birth in Tarsus (in Cilicia), and a Jew born to the tribe of Benjamin. His Hebrew name was Saul. Since he was a Pharisee, Saul was sent to Jerusalem by his parents to study the Mosaic Law under the great rabbi Gamaliel. As a student, he also learned the trade of tent-making. He was present as a consenting observer at the stoning of Deacon Stephen. But Saul was miraculously converted on his way to Damascus to arrest the Christians. After that, Saul, now called Paul, made several missionary journeys, converted hundreds of Jews and Gentiles and established Church communities. He wrote 14 epistles. He was arrested and kept in prison for two years in Caesarea and spent two more years under house arrest in Rome. Finally, he was martyred by beheading at Tre Fontane in Rome.
The zealous attitude of Paul reflects what many people are prepared to do today in the name of religion. Anyone who does not follow their belief or who tries to challenge them becomes a target of attack, an enemy and do suffer a lot until they succumb to the dictates of their persecutors. Conversion is practical. It has got signs and symptoms as today's gospel reveals:
(1) Faith manifesting in the power of deliverance and healing.
(2) Baptism manifesting in a new life (new tongues) marked by the spiritual sign of invulnerability. The devil can no longer overpower you, even when you drink deadly poison (demonic attacks), the Word of God says you will be unharmed because the Lord is your Shepherd, (Ps 23:1-4.) From a persecutor of the Way, Paul's conversion is very outstanding in so far as only few people experience such a turnaround in their lives. We are grateful to Paul for this testimony of his life. We pray for the grace to be able to bear witness to Christ in our own lives without being afraid of how people would react to what we say. What is important is that we bear witness to the truth and Christ would bring our testimony to fruition in those who are disposed to welcome the Word of God into their personal lives.
Saul of Tarsus, because of his zeal for the Jewish law and Jewish traditions, became the most outrageous enemy of Christ and his teaching, as the apostles started preaching the Gospel. His conversion into Paul teaches us that we, too, need conversion and the renewal of our lives by a fresh anointing of the Holy Spirit, which will enable us to bear witness to Christ by exemplary lives. All of us who call ourselves Christian must continually go through conversion, as Paul did. We need to keep looking at our lives and see where our dedication is. Are we only caught up in the rituals and external trappings of being a believer, or have we gone the further step and centered our lives on the person of Jesus? Are we willing to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ in our life style, by living lives that proclaim God’s love for all people? Do our actions reflect our Master so that people can say to us, “I know who your Master is, it is Jesus.” Hopefully none of us will ever have to go on trial for being Christians, but if we do, let us be willing to have left enough evidence to convict us of being a disciple of Jesus, the Christ, and our Lord.
At baptism, we are all expected to get converted to the Spirit of Christ. But are we really and properly adjusted to the Spirit of Christ? Are we really born again? Do we have a sufficient experience of the new life in Christ? On this Feast of the Conversion of St Paul, we can borrow a leaf from his experience. He persecuted the way of Christ before and was made blind by the light of Christ. Through the assistance of a minister of God, Ananias, he was made to see the light of Christ.
Tony A, [1/25/2022 7:55 AM]
We may not have persecuted Christ to the extent Paul did. But we can discover any moment that our lives are in contradiction to Christ's principles and that we are living as 'enemies of the Cross of Christ', (Phil 3:18). So, we need to make a U - turn and surrender our lives to Christ as Paul did. Then, the signs will begin to manifest - the signs of our conversion. As Ananias ministered to Saul, I now minister to you: 'Brother, Saul (replace with your own name), receive your sight'. Be converted and be readjusted to a new life in the Spirit. God bless us as you strive to convert and follow the ways of the Lord, Amen.
BROTHER/SISTER 'SAUL' (insert your name), RECEIVE YOUR SIGHT!