January 25th, 2016 ~ The Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle
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 myself learned . . . .
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 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 today . . . .
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 much attention to Paul until recently. And suddenly, I fell in love with him; thus, I’m writing this blog in his honor, despite his passages Hebraic attitudes toward women and the misuse of his words about gay people. Here’s the reason . . . .
Chrysostom goes on to say that the most important thing of all that St. Paul 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, the present and the 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.
In 2012, a priest-friend of mine sent me a Christmas card with a favorite quote from St. Paul on the cover that I framed and still sits on my dining room table that I often read. 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 in tears of joy that Jesus loves me–as I am, weak and sinful. He has raised me up and heals me, granting me the wonderful 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, despite 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 that 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. Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen for the slide show that accompanies it.
And here are all of today’s mass readings if you’d like to reflect on them. Click here.
Today is the forty-third anniversary of Roe v Wade.
Let us stand down, stop the condemning and judging and seek light and understanding, forgiveness and wholeness, kindness and compassion for the young in desperate situations who have no one to turn to and who may themselves be abandoned.
We live in a world that will not recognize the inviolateness and sacredness of every person on this planet.
My sense is that the sin of those who are quick to condemn others is as great as those who bring violence and bloodshed into their very own bodies.
We ALL have much for which to ask forgiveness. We ALL need to ask God to increase our capacity to love and turn away from hate.
There is too much hate in this world — sometimes from those who minister the Body and Blood of Christ at the altar.
The ones Jesus loves the most are the lost sheep of this world. He would reach out to those who have had abortions.
The enemies of Jesus are those who justify themselves, the self-righteous, the hypocrites, the ones who know nothing of compassion, those who would not think of walking a mile in someone else’s shoes but would lash out with their tongue.
St. John has said NO ONE is without sin! He also said that “Anyone who HATES his brother or sister is oneself a MURDERER!”(1 John 3:15)
However, I quote from a blog on the Los Angeles Times: The blogger is commenting on those polled who said that abortion was no longer a key issue . . . .
“If the killing of 1,200,000 babies each year in this country, with over 700,000 (59%) of those children killed being Black (400,000+) and Hispanic (300,000+), if this is no longer a “key” issue, then that speaks volumes of how far we have regressed back to the days when Hitler and his Nazi henchmen thought that the genocide of the Jews was also a non-issue. Abortion is a violent crime as it attacks life in the holy of holies, the mother’s womb. Every civilization that went into the killing of their children has perished from this planet by the same violent means as they used to kill their future generations. These include: the Canaanites, the Phoenicians, the Carthaginians, the Mayans, the Incas and the Aztecs.”
President Obama supports Planned Parenthood. I would prefer that this president would take Bill Clinton’s approach that “abortions should be “safe, legal and rare.” Planned Parenthood has an aggressive, non-spiritual agenda; they talk about the fetus as if it was disposable tissue, not a living being, a person entitled to life.
I read the magazines from Defenders of Wildlife that I enjoy very much. They’re concerned about the killing of wolves in Wyoming, Grizzlies in Montana, Polar Bears in Alaska, Orcas in Hudson Bay. And I wonder if they are Defenders of Unborn Human Life.
Dearest Lady, mother of Jesus,
whose tender love brought Love Itself into our world,
help those who have never known the tender embrace of their own mother’s love
to receive the same tender care and love you wish for each of them. . . for each of us . . . as you offered the strict, yet tender, love of a Jewish mother upon Jesus, the Son of God
who was nourished at your tender breasts,
cradled in your arms,
bounced upon your knee;
whose booboo was kissed by your lovely mouth,
whose dead body you received come down from the Cross.
You were the one from Jesus learned the joys of human love.
Receive today all of Jesus’ brothers and sisters on this planet, born and unborn.
Draw us all into that one great mystery of divine/human love which is the glory of our Christian faith,
the Incarnation of the son of a young beautiful woman, Son of God,
our Brother, our Friend, Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!
And now, before you go, here’s “Surely He has borne our grief”, from The Messiah. Click here.Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.
Hint: If you do not yet accept our faith that Jesus is true God and true human
just accept it as a beautiful love story. The message still works!
And P.S. Don’t worry about the aborted children; the innocent ones will shine like the stars in God’s kingdom.
The tragedy is that they will never set foot on this beautiful planet.
This feast is part of the epiphany cycle of feasts ….
It reveals further the meaning of the Incarnation of the Son of God, that is. our God entering our world and becoming flesh and blood.
God sent his only Son to become one with us.
What better way to do this than to show acceptance of the human condition by being baptized for the forgiveness of sin.
Jesus has no personal sin. Yet he got in line with hundreds of pilgrims to be baptized by the prophet John by the River Jordan.
In this we see Jesus’ humility. He is willing to accept ALL of the human condition. He willingly presents himself for baptism.
There he is: John in his camel-hair shirt at the edge of the desert, wading out into the waters of the Jordan River.
A crowd has gathered on the banks. Jesus is among them. He is unknown at this time because he has yet to begin his ministry. He has chosen this meeting with the Prophet to inaugurate his own mission.
Jesus waits patiently amidst the crowd. There’s a line of people eagerly waiting to meet individually with John. Jesus is to receive his baptism of repentance ~ not because there’s sin in him, but in order to model for us the authentic way to approach the Father.
He goes to the Baptist as a beggar because the Mystery is mercy. Jesus surrenders to mercy by submitting himself to baptism in order to invite us to share in his relationship with the Father announced from heaven:
“You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
The Lord Jesus lowers himself in his baptism and, as Nothingness, acknowledges his Father so that we will never hesitate to do the same. (Source: Magnificat /Jan. 2016 issue p. 133.)
An astonishing thing happened; the two of them were privileged to a vision. The sky opened up and John saw the Spirit of God descend on Jesus like a dove and hover over him.
With that, a voice from the heavens said,
“You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
In our immersion into the waters of baptism, we are consecrated, set apart and made holy. In Jesus’ immersion in the baptismal waters of the Jordan, the opposite becomes true. Jesus consecrates, sets apart and makes holy the waters of baptism. Jesus as Man consecrates the movement of divine grace that flows just as rivers flow.
Sometimes the river has abundant waters that give life to all living things that share its banks. But sometimes the waters dry up and become like a desert.
So, too, with grace. Grace flows like a river bringing wonderful fruit to all who drink and are immersed in it. But sometimes grace seemingly dries up and we live in a desert for a while. But the river is still there ~ unseen; it just moves below the surface.
So we have to be willing to be immersed. To be immersed in divine grace. To be immersed in God. To be immersed in love.
But that precisely is the problem. We are scared of being immersed in love. We are scared of being immersed in God. We prefer to stand on the banks of the river and watch the waters of grace flow by, without having direct contact with it.
So this feast day is about us as well. Don’t be afraid to be immersed in God. Don’t be afraid to be immersed in love.
If we are immersed in God, in love, we will hear the voice of God say to us . . . .
“You are my beloved son. You are my beloved daughter.
Now, before you go, here’s Bill and Gloria Gaither singing the traditional spiritual “Shall we Gather at the River.” Click here.