January 25th, 2015 ~ The Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle
(But the liturgical observance of his feast day is suppressed this year because it falls on a Sunday.)
Paul was an amazing man. He was small of stature; he refused to depend on charity ~ thus, he worked as a tent-maker wherever he went. After he was severely beaten, he was in constant pain, but went on and on and on, because. as I have tried to learn . . . .
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
~ Philippians 4:13
Paul before his conversion was known as Saul of Tarsus, and as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles he says, I persecuted this Way to death, binding them both men and women and delivering them to prison. And then he tells the story of his conversion on the way to Damascus, that a great light blinded him and he heard a voice asking, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” (You can read the rest of the story in Acts 22: 1:16.
I enjoyed what St. John Chrysostom, a bishop in the early church says about Paul in the divine office for this day:
Paul, more than anyone else, has shown us what man really is, and in what our nobility consists and in what virtue this particular animal is capable. Each day he aimed even higher; each day he rose up with even greater ardor and faced with new eagerness the dangers that threatened him. He summed up his attitude in his words: “I forget what lies behind me and I push on to what lies ahead.”
I never paid a lot of attention to Paul for the longest time until recently. And suddenly, I fell in love with him; thus, I’m taking the time to write this blog in his honor, despite his texts about women and the misuse of his words toward gay people. Here’s the reason . . . .
Chrysostom (a word meaning “GoldenMouth”) was an outstanding preacher. He goes on to say:
The most important thing of all that he knew himself to be loved by Christ. Enjoying this love he considers himself happier than anyone else . . . . He preferred to be thus loved and be the least of all, or even among the damned, than to be without that love and be among the great and honored. So too, in being loved by Christ he thought himself as possessing life, the world, the angels, present and future, the kingdom, the promise and countless blessings. Apart from that love nothing saddened or delighted him; for nothing earthly did he regard as bitter or sweet.
Several years ago, a priest-friend sent me a Christmas card with a favorite quote from St. Paul on the cover that I framed and that still sits in front of me on my dining room table. As I have had my own cup of suffering from long years of manic-depressive illness it means a great deal to me . . . .
“My grace is sufficient for you,
for in weakness power reaches perfection.”
And so I willingly boast of my weaknesses instead,
that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
For when I am powerless, it is then I am strong.
(2 Cor. 12:9-10)
You see, Paul has helped me love my Lord ~ or rather to deeply and richly realize with tears of joy that Jesus loves me ~ as I am, weak and sinful. He has raised me up and heals me and sometimes allows me the grace to share his love as best I can at the tip of my cursor, if in no other way.
And so, dear friends, know that you, too, are loved, whether you know it or not. Our God is love! Know that ~ despite whatever else you’ve been taught, no matter how guilty you may feel or how unworthy you think you are. YOU ARE LOVED! THIS IS A MEANINGFUL UNIVERSE! And if you want, call me and I’ll try to help ~ 904-315-5268.
We’ll let St. Catherine of Siena have the last word which really grabbed me, Paul “became a vessel of love filled with fire to carry and preach God’s Word. Amen. Amen!
And now, before you go, here are the St. Louis Jesuits singing the Prayer of their Founder, “Take, Lord, and Receive.” It’s a beautiful prayer and a beautiful song. Click here.