Tag Archives: St. Paul

The Conversion of St. Paul

January 25th is the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. It came in a blinding moment, so different than the call of Jesus’ other apostles.

Caravaggio’s dramatic painting of Paul on the flat of his back, arms outstretched, helplessly blind is a vivid picture of humanity before God.

Conversion is God’s work; God alone gives the gift of faith.

The first reading for his feast tell the dramatic story of his conversion. (Acts 22, 3-16)  In the gospel of Matthew,Jesus announces why he was called – to preach the gospel to all nations.(Matthew 16,15-18)

“May the Spirit fill us with that light of faith.”

For St. John Chrysostom  “Paul, more than anyone else, has shown us what we really are, and in what our nobility consists, and of what virtue a human being is capable. Each day he aimed ever higher; each day he rose up with greater ardour and faced with new eagerness the dangers that threatened him. He summed up his attitude in the words: I forget what is behind me and push on to what lies ahead.

“When he saw death imminent, he bade others share his joy: Rejoice and be glad with me! And when danger, injustice and abuse threatened, he said: I am content with weakness, mistreatment and persecution. These he called the weapons of righteousness, thus telling us that he derived immense profit from them…

The most important thing of all to Paul was that he knew himself to be loved by Christ.”

May God give us that grace .

Today ends the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

May God give us all that grace.

By Faith, Not By Sight

At Mass today we hear St. Paul reflecting on his life in his Second Letter to the Corinthians. “We walk by faith and not by sight,” he says. You can look at yourself by faith or by sight. Obviously, some at Corinth are looking at Paul “by sight,” what they think he is, but Paul sees himself in another way, by faith.

“We are treated as deceivers and yet are truthful;
as unrecognized and yet acknowledged;
as dying and behold we live;
as chastised and yet not put to death;
as sorrowful yet always rejoicing;
as poor yet enriching many;
as having nothing and yet possessing all things.”   ( 2 Corinthians 5,1-16)

Some in Corinth see Paul as a deceiver, a nobody, on his way out, beaten, sorrowful, poor, having nothing. Paul sees himself by another light. The NAB commentary on 2 Corinthians says that, though Paul speaks personally he assumes his experience is shared by other people of faith. We’re all called to walk by faith and not by sight.

And so, how do we see ourselves today?

Today, the 58th year of my priestly ordination, I’m beginning a Mission at St. Mary’s Church in Kingston, New York at 7 PM. It’s the last of the Revive Missions sponsored by the Archdiocese of New York that I’m taking part in.

Some would say the church is responsible for the ills of our world, it’s passing away, beaten, a sad thing, having nothing to say any more. But, Paul begins his reflections proclaiming “Now is an acceptable time. Now is the way to salvation.” So, “We walk by faith, not by sight.”

The Body of Christ

body of Christ
“We, though many, are one Body in Christ
and individually parts of one another.” {Romans 12,5-16}

St. Paul often uses the term “Body of Christ” to describe the union of Jesus with his followers. Those who follow Jesus are never isolated, self-sufficient individuals, sent off on their own. They’re united with him and with one another, and the gifts each has are to be shared with all.

Paul offers a lists of these gifts in the Letter to the Romans, read today at Mass:

“if prophecy, in proportion to the faith;
if ministry, in ministering;
if one is a teacher, in teaching;
if one exhorts, in exhortation;
if one contributes, in generosity;
if one is over others, with diligence;
if one does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.”

We may see one or other of these gifts in ourselves, but we also need to see them in others too. The danger in our individualistic age is to not recognize our dependence on others and look at someone and think: “I don’t need you,” or “I’m more important than you.” Being in the “Body of Christ” means we need each other.

The World to Come

There was an evangelist on TV a couple of years ago, Harold Camping, who was predicting the end the world. He calculated from the Bible that the world was going to end on May 21, 2011 at 6 PM. It was going to be an awful, terrifying event–fires, earthquakes; everything was going to be blown up and destroyed.

Harold had no use for any the churches. They were taken over by the devil, he said. Read the bible, hold on to it; it was the only thing that would save you, he said.

I remember signs on the buses and on billboards announcing judgment day. It was surprising how many people were paying attention to him. Harold not only had the date wrong; he also had God’s plan for our world wrong.

Paul’s Letter to the Romans, which we’re reading at Mass today, sees such a different picture. (Romans 8, 18-25) Paul speaks of a glory that will be revealed. The resurrection of Jesus has changed the way we look at our death and also the way we see the future of creation itself.

The destiny of the created world is linked to our destiny. It wont be destroyed. “Creation awaits with eager expectation the revelation of the children of God.” It “groans in labor pains” until that day comes, when there will be a “new heaven and a new earth.”

Just as we hope to share in the resurrection of Jesus, we also hope that creation share in it. We ready ourselves now for the future we’ve been promised by a life of loving and caring, a love and care that should extend to the created world. Loving and caring for creation is so urgently needed today, when it suffers from so much human abuse.

“I look forward to the resurrection of the body and the life of the world to come.” Those words of the creed are so important. I look forward, not in fear but in hope. I look forward to sharing in the glory of the resurrection of Jesus. I look forward to a world to come, when the creation we know now shares in the glory we know then.