Posted by: fvbcdm | January 25, 2012

Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul (25 Jan 2012)

Today the Church celebrates the conversion of Saint Paul, one of the most important events in the history of the early church.  Paul, whose name was originally Saul, was a deeply religious Jew and very fiery persecutor of the new Christian group which he saw as a threat to the Jewish religious community.  He was on his way to Damascus with authorization from the Jewish high court, called the Sanhedrin, to arrest any Christians he found there and bring them back in chains to be imprisoned and perhaps killed in Jerusalem.  But Our Lord had other plans.  On the road to Damascus, Paul was enveloped in a bright light that blinded him; an unknown force knocked him to the ground, and in the midst of all this, a voice said to him: Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?  He didn’t recognize the voice, so he asked, Who are you, sir?  The voice replied, I am Jesus of Nazareth whom you are persecuting.  Actually, Jesus had risen to heaven some time before that; Saul was persecuting the followers of Jesus, whom Our Lord graciously identified with himself.   Here we have a striking example of the truth of Our Lord’s words, “Whatever you do to my least brothers, you do to me.”  Paul was persecuting the disciples of Jesus, so he was persecuting Jesus himself.

A devout Christian by the name of Ananias was instructed  by Our Lord to go and get the still blind Paul and lead him into the Christian community of Damascus.  When Ananias objected on the grounds that Paul had done the Christian community in Jerusalem much harm, he was told, “Go! This man is the instrument I have chosen to bring my name to the gentiles and their kings, and to the people of Israel.”

 Now we have a very touching example of humble obedience of a servant to his divine master.  Afraid of Paul as he was, Ananias did as Our Lord told him.  He went, found Paul, laid hands on him, and said, Saul, my brother—MY BROTHER— I have been sent by the Lord Jesus . . . to help you recover your sight and to be filled with the Holy Spirit.  Not only does Ananias show humility and obedience, but love and total forgiveness of a former enemy.  No longer afraid of Saul, Ananias now eagerly goes to him, lays hands upon him in blessing and deliverance from blindness, and welcomes him into the Christian community.  

When Our Lord spoke of Paul as “the instrument I have chosen,” only Jesus knew all that that really meant.  It meant that this Paul would be placed on a par with the other apostles chosen during Jesus’s lifetime and he would become a tremendous force for good as apostle, bishop, and composer of a great part of the New Testament.  That is why today we celebrate his conversion, and we read from his writings almost every day in the Mass and the liturgy of the hours which are so important in our Catholic prayer life.  Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.

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