Thursday, January 24, 2013
Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul the Apostle
A friend of mine once preached a homily in which he stood before an altar with a big green trash bag stuffed full with paper. He held the bag up and said, “This bag is our life.” “As Christians,” he continued, “we seek to give our lives to Christ.” He then turned around and reverently placed the bag before the altar. “But then,” he said, “we always try to take our life back again,” and he unceremoniously snatched the bag up.
Corny, I’ll admit, although I’ve remembered it for fifteen years. It does, however, happen to be true. All of us intend to surrender our life to Christ in trust and obedience. But we inevitably hold something back or take something back. There are always parts of our life we haven’t given to Jesus, are unwilling to give to Jesus, or we find really difficult to give to Jesus. Often, we don’t know ourselves well enough to give all of ourselves to Jesus. That’s why giving our lives to Jesus involves a process of ongoing, lifelong conversion.
Maybe that’s something to keep in mind on this Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. It might be better to call it, “The Feast of the Beginning of the Conversion of St. Paul.” What we recall today was St. Paul’s conversion to the Faith, which was a key event in the worldwide spread of the Church. For Paul, however, it was only the beginning of his conversion to Christ.
Paul’s conversion process was a struggle. In his letters, he speaks of fighting the good fight, running the race, beating his body, growing from spiritual infancy to spiritual maturity, engaging in battle with the armor of God, and pressing on toward a prize he had yet to reach.
Yet Paul did reach the prize. His experience of lifelong conversion reminds us that while there are no overnight saints, there are saints nevertheless. A saint is what Paul became, and with the grace of God, so can we. St. Paul, pray for us!
-Fr. Scott Hurd