FROM SAUL TO PAUL—GRACE WORKS
Paul’s conversion must have been a tremendous change of mentality for him, a real conversion. Not only did a Jew who became a Christian at the same time become an outcast to his people, as he was considered a renegade, a traitor, but Paul had also been a rabbi, a Pharisee, a rabid persecutor of Christians.
And now he follows Jesus. Christ has become his life. Like his Lord, he sits at table with sinners and tax collectors and pagans. From now on his life is given to Christ and his kingdom, a community in which there is no more distinction between Greek and barbarian, between slaves and free citizens, between men and women, and especially between Jew and non-Jew.
Lord our God, Father of all
let our celebration today
of the conversion of Saint Paul
become for us too, a deep experience
of conversion and encounter with you.
Let this feast make us more aware
that whatever evil we do to others,
we do to you
and the good we do, the love we show,
we give also to you.
Like St. Paul, make us love everyone.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen!
1 Reading ACTS 22:3-16
Paul addressed the people in these words: “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city. At the feet of Gamaliel I was educated strictly in our ancestral law and was zealous for God, just as all of you are today. I persecuted this Way to death, binding both men and women and delivering them to prison. Even the high priest and the whole council of elders can testify on my behalf. For from them I even received letters to the brothers and set out for Damascus to bring back to Jerusalem in chains for punishment those there as well. “On that journey as I drew near to Damascus, about noon a great light from the sky suddenly shone around me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ I replied, ‘Who are you, sir?’ And he said to me, ‘I am Jesus the Nazorean whom you are persecuting.’ My companions saw the light but did not hear the voice of the one who spoke to me. I asked, ‘What shall I do, sir?’ The Lord answered me, ‘Get up and go into Damascus, and there you will be told about everything appointed for you to do.’ Since I could see nothing because of the brightness of that light, I was led by hand by my companions and entered Damascus. “A certain Ananias, a devout observer of the law, and highly spoken of by all the Jews who lived there, came to me and stood there and said, ‘Saul, my brother, regain your sight.’ And at that very moment I regained my sight and saw him. Then he said, ‘The God of our ancestors designated you to know his will, to see the Righteous One, and to hear the sound of his voice; for you will be his witness before all to what you have seen and heard. Now, why delay? Get up and have yourself baptized and your sins washed away, calling upon his name.’”
Responsorial PSALM 117:1bc, 2
R. (Mark 16:15) Go out to all the world, and tell the Good News. or: Alleluia, alleluia.
Praise the LORD, all you nations;
glorify him, all you peoples! R.
For steadfast is his kindness toward us,
and the fidelity of the LORD endures forever. R.
Alleluia JOHN 15:16
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I chose you from the world,
to go and bear fruit that will last, says the Lord.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel MARK 16:15-18
Jesus appeared to the Eleven and said to them: “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned. These signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will drive out demons, they will speak new languages. They will pick up serpents with their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them. They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”
Every conversion is a celebration
Today we celebrate the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle. The first reading for today describes Paul’s conversion. In this reading some time has passed since Paul’s conversion and he has returned to Jerusalem after his first missionary journey. In Jerusalem Paul encounters a crowd of Jews hostile to the Christians. He is badly beaten and is saved from death by the Roman soldiers who arrest him in order to prevent a riot. Paul then begs the Roman officer to be allowed to speak to the crowd. His words to the crowd are today’s first reading.
The reading gives an important point for our reflection: Doing evil to the people of God is to attack Jesus himself. Remember the words of Jesus, “As often as you do it to even the least of my brothers, you do it to me.”
It is significant that when Saul got to his feet, he was blind. It was not just a physical blindness; he had not been able to see Jesus as the Word of God. During the time of being in the dark without sight, he remains without food and drink for three days – a time of “dark night of the soul.” When he regains his sight, he begins to see everything different.
It is ironic that Paul had to endure enmity from both sides, the Christians and the Jews. At the time of his conversion, he had to convince the Christians that his conversion was genuine and that he was one of them. Now he encounters the enmity of the Jews who see him as a traitor to their cause by his conversion to Christianity.
He had just been beaten and it must have taken all his strength to stand up to those who minutes before had been beating him. It also must have taken great courage to speak to them at all since they were very hostile to him.
The Conversion of St. Paul is an outstanding example of the mysterious ways that God. Paul had an encounter with Jesus that was unlike that had by any of the other apostles. He went very quickly from being an implacable foe of the Christians to being one of their great champions and an outstanding apostle. The feast of Paul’s conversion is a major feast celebrated by the Church throughout the world.
Conversion is not something that only happens once in a lifetime. It can happen to us several times in the course of our life. Let us be ready to answer whenever the Lord calls us to something newer or greater.
For unity in the Church and in our world, that people from all races, cultures and social classes may fully accept one another as children of the same heavenly Father, we pray:
– For those who persecute people because of their religion, that the prayers and death of the martyrs may change their hearts, we pray:
– For those who are persecuted because of their faith, that they may remain steadfast believers, we pray:
– For all of us, that Christ may be and remain our life and the meaning of what we are and do, we pray:
Prayer over the Gifts
Father of all,
may the day come that all of humankind,
wherever they live, whoever they are,
in all their variety and gifts,
may know your Son Jesus Christ,
listen to his word and eat from his table.
Let your whole Church today
continue the work of St. Paul
with great zeal and conviction.
This we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen!
Prayer after Communion
God of all people and nations,
may everyone deeply encounter your Son Jesus
and may he become the life of all.
May he indeed live in us,
in our joys and sorrows,
in our hopes and aspirations,
in our loves and friendships.
Let him be the light and the meaning
of what we are and do.
In this way let us attract everyone
to Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen!
After the conversion of Paul, Ananias told him: “You are to be the witness before all humankind of the Just One, Christ, testifying to what you have seen and heard.” We have to testify to the one we have met, Christ, with the blessing of almighty God, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen!