January 25, 2023 –
The Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle
“Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.”
The Conversion of St. Paul might seem difficult for us to relate to, especially if we are cradle Catholics. St. Paul’s conversion was from a strict Pharisaical form of Judaism to a living faith in Jesus Christ. But we could expand on this by saying that Paul’s conversion was from one understanding of sacrifice to another. Saul was not a Levite: a member of Israel’s priestly line. But his concept of sacrifice as a faithful Jew would have been based on temple sacrifices.
Christian sacrifice, however, is not of exterior things, but of what is most interior and personal. It’s a sacrifice not of animals, but of one’s very self, and of one’s whole self: body, soul and spirit. We might say that when you convert to Christ, your life is over. You live no more, but Christ lives in you [see Galatians 2:20]. This is exemplified impressively in the Order of Saint Benedict, which at religious professions has those new members lay prostrate in the sanctuary of the abbey church. Then they are covered by a large funeral pall.
What all three readings today (including the Responsorial Psalm) profess is the link between conversion and mission. “Go out to all the world and tell the Good News.” One of the worst afflictions within the Church today is a privatization of the Faith: that is, believing that one’s faith should only be a personal matter, something best kept to oneself, and which is merely for the sake of getting oneself to Heaven. There are countless forms in which a baptized Christian might evangelize others, but every baptized Christian is called to evangelize those without faith.