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Conversion and Call

by Jan 25, 2022Friar Reflection

Today we celebrate the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul the apostle.  Paul was a zealous Jew who became a zealous missionary or apostle.  In today’s first reading Paul offers his defense or apologia to the Jewish crowd gathered in the Temple as he describes his “conversion.”  Paul grew up as a zealous Jew and studied at the feet of the great Rabbi Gamaliel.  He was a zealous persecutor of the church, the Body of Christ, so that when Jesus appeared he said to him: “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”  Why did Paul persecute the church?  The church preached a crucified Messiah which was a scandal to Paul’s cultural and religious view.  Later, after his conversion, he reflected on this experience:

For Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.  For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. (1 Corinthians 1:22-25)

Paul’s conversion was a turning from seeing the cross as a scandal and folly to seeing things God’s way, even when this way seemed to contradict some of his own religious upbringing.  Paul was already a worshiper of the one true God and a righteous person but still he needed to humble himself to God’s will and way.

Paul himself described this experience not as a conversion but as a call, a call to preach the Gospel:

“But when God, who from my mother’s womb had set me apart and called me through his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, so that I might proclaim him to the Gentiles…” (Galatians 1:15-16).

Like St. Paul each of us is called to preach the Gospel by our words but even more by our deeds.  We preach by making God’s love concrete by hearing the cry of the poor, helping those who are heavily burdened, and looking out not just for oneself but for the common good.  Like Paul, this may mean that at times I have to turn from seeing and doing things my way and doing things God’s way.  We are called to this conversion each day.

 

 

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