Saints are examples of how far we can rise, from the depths to the heights. Today the church celebrates the Conversion of St. Paul, who never forgot that God’s grace raised him from the dust to become a powerful force in his church and in the world.
The dramatic conversion of Paul is recalled in today’s first reading at Mass from the Acts of the Apostles. Luke describes this event three times, a way of acknowledging Paul’s special role in the spread of Christianity from Jerusalem to Rome.
Paul’s conversion and ministry was a work of God, who used the apostle for his own divine purposes. It’s not Paul’s genius or imagination that achieved so much. God’s grace brought him to the ground on his way to Damascus and God’s grace sent him on his mission.
“Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” Jesus says to him. From that meeting Paul gained the conviction that faith is a gift that justifies us and that the church is the body of Christ. He did not come to those beliefs on his own.
Paul’s great conversion story in Acts leads to the conversion of the gentiles. Paul has a prominent part in these stories; he’s an agent whom God sends and constantly empowers. But he never forgot the moment he was blinded by a light that made him see.
“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… ” ( St. John Chrysostom)