Friday, January 23, 2009

The Conversion of St. Paul

Conversion of St. Paul
May the peace of Christ Reign in our hearts…

This Sunday we celebrate the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul.

We know very little about his childhood or family.

St. Paul came from a notable family in the ancient city Tarsus.

They were probably devout Jews who also where somehow were able to become Roman Citizens.

Their faith was so important to them that In his youth they sent Paul to Jerusalem to study with the great Rabbi Gamaliel.

Paul was a scholar and Hard worker
tradition says he was a tent maker.
He was an orator.
He was a passionate orthodox Jew and this passion and his convictions led him to violently persecute Christians.

He himself was present and participated in the murder or martyrdom of St. Stephen, the first follower of Christ to give is life for his faith.

Paul of Tarsus was every bit a passionate, arrogant, zealous, murderer.

Yet, God saw something good in him.
So one day out of the blue without any warning he lost everything.

On the road from Jerusalem to Damascus there came a blinding light so bright, so sudden, that it incapacitated him completely.

And Paul, this proud man this self-assured man, was so struck that he even fell off his horse.

Everything he knew, everything he trusted
everything and defended his pride, his arrogance
his position, his power, everything he had was gone.

In the blink of an eye he was
defenseless, blind, dependent and alone.

Paul never met Jesus before his death and Resurrection.

But as he was healed and cared for in Damascus he had a vision of the Risen Lord.

After those three days of darkness
After those three days of isolation
After those three days of uncertainty
His sight was returned, his body was healed and his soul was made whole

Paul who had persecuted the Church,
Paul the zealot, the murder, had a radical change of heart and through God’s grace he became the Apostle to the Gentiles.

Through his work and his efforts
Our faith, the Good news became known all over the world.

Wherever he went, Corinth, Thessalonica, Philippi, Ephesus, Colossae, Antioch and who knows where else Paul founded Churches, living communities of believers.

He was so charismatic and so convicted in his new found faith that he was able to bring whole communities to Christ .

And many years later in Rome the man who had so severely persecuted the Church, freely gave up his life rather than renounce his faith in Risen Christ who he had met on the road to Damascus.

What does the incredible story of Conversion of St. Paul have to say to us today?
What should we take from it ?

No human being is without hope.
God saw through all Paul’s sins, his ignorance, his arrogance his pridefulness.
God saw through it all.

It would have been easy for us to give up on Paul but God didn’t.

The story of St. Paul should cause us to ask ourselves,
Who have we given up on?
Who have we placed in the “no hope box” or relegated to trash heap of life?

As a culture we spend so much more time trying to punish people rather than rehabilitate them.

God’s action in St. Paul’s life reminds us that there is always hope… even in the most desperate of cases.

Paul’s story also reminds us that…
We can change
We can change
Yes we can change
Sometimes it is so tempting to give up on ourselves.
Sometimes our problems, our addictions, our pride, our passions seem overwhelming.

Sometimes when disaster strikes and we fall off our horse, so to speak, we need to learn from Paul’s example that what seems horrible at the moment can really be a moment of grace,
a moment an
a chance to change to begin anew.

How many times in our lives have the trials and tribulations of life really been good waiting to happen.

When everything was taken from him all that Paul had left was to hope in Jesus the Nazorean the one he had persecuted.

I think this thought is really something we need to hold onto during these difficult economic times.

Sometimes falling off your horse,
loosing what you have, is always not a bad thing sometimes it is a blessing.

Challenges like that can bring us to something new, something better.

If our faith is real if it is sincere it can and should be life giving not only for us but also for others.

If we have never brought anyone to faith,
If our lives or our example, have never moved anyone,
it begs the question “ How really committed are we to following Christ”?

Everywhere Paul went he changed peoples hearts
He inspired people.
Paul lived the great commission that we heard in the Gospel today.

He went and made disciples of all men and women.

His example should challenge us all to become apostles to those without the consolation of Christ.

A faith half lived, a faith which only goes through the motions has no power to change hearts or to save.

On this day as we commemorate the Conversion of St. Paul.

Let us never give up on anyone. Let us rather be willing to expect the unexpected.

Let us never give up on ourselves.

Let us also see the challenges of life as opportunities of grace.

Let us live lives of holiness that have the power to change hearts and bring our brothers and sisters to faith.

What horse do we have to fall off.... that's a very important question indeed.

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