The Feast of St. Paul’s Conversion

Mark 16: 15-18
Acts 22: 3-16 or Acts 9: 1-22/ Ps 117: 1-2

Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.
(Mark 16:15)

Our strifes and trials when we preach
Are but a light cross that we bear,
There’ll be more souls that we can reach
If Christ’s Good News is ours to share.

Jesus said to His disciples, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.” (Mk 16:15-18)

Reflection

Among the most ardent apostles of Jesus, Saul of Tarsus must have received the hardest mission of all. This ‘Apostle to the Gentiles’ was the most unique, since he never saw his Master in the flesh; he was the only chosen apostle who never walked with or heard the teachings of our Lord. He was on a different kind of mission when he was commissioned by the Spirit of Jesus on the way to Damascus. Educated as a Pharisee, he was a natural-born Roman citizen who hated the early Christians for their perceived blasphemy. He was the last apostle, but the first evangelist of Christ.

The companions of Saul (St. Paul) on the day of his conversion heard the voice, but could see no one. The call of God’s mission was for Saul alone. For three days he remained in darkness, neither eating or drinking, as if he was entombed like his new-found Master. When he finally regained his sight (Acts 9:18), it was as if he was ‘resurrected’ into a new life.

In preaching the Good News throughout the gentile world, St. Paul manifested the words of Jesus in today’s Gospel. In His Name he drove out evil spirits: “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her” (Acts 16:18). He “spoke in new tongues” as his proclamation of the Word of God was understood by all the peoples in the different countries that he visited. The converts on whom he laid hands to baptize them in the Holy Spirit also spoke in tongues and prophesied (Acts 19:6). Shipwrecked in the island of Malta, St. Paul accidentally held a poisonous viper, but he was not harmed (Acts 28:3-5). He had no occasion to drink poison, but when a young man was killed, falling from the third floor of a building, St. Paul was able to bring him back to life by embracing him (Acts 20:10-12). St. Paul followed the mandate of Jesus Christ to the letter, and never wavered in his God-given mission. In his farewell speech in Miletus, he said, “In one city after another the Holy Spirit has been warning me that imprisonment and hardships await me. Yet I consider life of no importance to me, if only I may finish my course and the ministry I received from the Lord Jesus, to bear witness to the gospel of God’s grace” (Acts 20:23-24).

In following Jesus’ call to repentance, conversion, and preaching of the Gospel, let St. Paul be our model. Let our response be a personal one, full of faith in God’s power, hope in His eternal reward, and motivated by love for His Word and for those to whom His Holy Spirit sends us. Meditate on this: What is God asking me to do today?

Speak to me in my heart, Lord God, on what I must do in order to be worthy of this gift of faith. Dear St. Paul of Tarsus, pray for me that I may gain even just a little of the grace that God gave you to proclaim His Gospel, and make a difference in the lives of others as you did for the early Christian Church. Amen.

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