January 25, 2021 – Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul
Click here for the readings (https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/012521.cfm)
Have you ever experienced in your life where you thought that everything is well and perfectly in order? Or an experience where we have decided alone to take this path or that direction because we have completely believed in our own capacity and principles? Yet, at the end we found ourselves broken into pieces because all along we were not doing the right thing.
Saul or Paul had this kind of experience. Saul really thought that he was a righteous man and that he was a very good man, that he did things well and that he was successful in everything. He thought he was holy and righteous enough for God. He was full of zeal and very convinced of the direction he was taking in life.
Being a righteous Jew, he wanted to defend the Jewish religion against all its enemies. This made Saul to persecute the followers of the Way (the old name of the Christians) whom he believed to be threats to their established religion.
Yet, he did not know that he was very misguided, that he was not seeing the right things. In fact, Saul was not aware that he was being blinded by his own self-righteousness and rigidity to the Jewish law by persecuting the early Christians. He was not aware of that but not until he was able to encounter the Lord on the ROAD TO DAMASCUS.
Remember, the Lord is the Light of the World, it was very symbolic that Saul had become aware of his own blindness when he encountered the True Light, Jesus. When light shone upon him then he became aware that he was in darkness, his spiritual blindness manifested through his physical blindness. That awareness of his own blindness prompted him to seek healing. A servant of the Lord, Ananias was instrumental to Saul’s healing and recovery of sight, thus, he was able to see clearly.
This encounter with the light, with Jesus is the very experience of conversion of Saul who later on was known as Paul, a symbol of a new beginning and a new mission to fulfill. Paul through that encounter with the Risen Lord transformed his life and re-evaluated everything in his life as a Pharisee and as a person. As a result, he became an apostle to the Gentiles and a very important figure in the history of early Christianity by founding Churches and writing letters in the New Testament.
This brings us then to the invitation of this feast. We are called to a continual conversion of our hearts – because we have also our own blindness, especially when we think that we are righteous enough before God, thinking that that gives us the power to persecute others and eliminate those who are against us. We can be blinded by our own complacency thinking that going to church even on a regular basis and just by saying our memorized prayers everyday are enough before God. We can be blinded by our arrogance that we can do things perfectly even without the help of God. We can be blinded by our own opinions by insisting that what we believe is true but without minding the facts. We can be blinded also by our own weaknesses when we think that we are already trapped in that weakness and thus, couldn’t move anymore and couldn’t do anything.
There is always something more and this is what the Lord is telling us today by making us remember that story of conversion of Paul – that being a Christian, our faith in Jesus is not only about the observance of laws and doctrines but also showing mercy to others as what Paul experienced in his encounter with the Risen Lord. And that experience will move us to preach the Gospel – this is basically what our gospel reading is telling us now. Preach the Gospel – your God experiences – to all by our words and example.
Thus, we are reminded today to COME TO THE LIGHT AND NOT TO BE AFRAID OF HIM – to come nearer to Jesus. We come to him in the hope that we too will become aware of our own blindness – of that self-righteousness, of those arrogant opinions of ours, of that complacency and self-pity in us – so that we will be able to seek healing. When this happens, God will certainly inspire us to become preachers of the good news to all by our words and deeds. Hinaut pa.