January 25, 2020
by Mary Lee Brock
Creighton University's Department of Interdisciplinary Studies
click here for photo and information about the writer

Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul, Apostle
Lectionary: 519

Acts 22:3-16 or
Acts 9:1-22
Psalms 117:1BC, 2
Mark 16:15-18

Praying Ordinary Time

Pope Francis on this day- 2014

What If I Have Trouble Getting Better?

Today is the feast of the conversion of Saint Paul.  As we read in Acts, Paul, who was called Saul at the time, was strident in his following the laws of his upbringing.  His identity was firmly grounded in the Jewish tradition.  He actively sought out people who were followers of Jesus and brought them to persecution.  The high priests and elders gave their authority to Saul’s efforts. 

As Saul was on the road to Damascus to capture more women and men who were following the teachings of Jesus, he was struck down by a bright light and commanding voice.  Saul was the only person who could hear Jesus in that encounter. The blinded Saul was led to Damascus by his companions where Jesus’s disciple Ananias delivered the message that Paul had been chosen to carry the name of Jesus to Gentiles, kings and children of Israel.  And we know from the writing of Saint Paul that he was indeed filled by the Holy Spirit and lead many people to Christianity.

The story of Paul’s conversion has so many elements including the reputation of Saul as a persecutor, the fear of Ananias expressed about confronting Saul, the commanding presence of Jesus and the rebirth of Paul after having been struck down and blinded.  This story is inspiring and also very challenging.

As I pray with this reading I realize how difficult it is to confront my own moments in my life where I needed conversion.  While I have always had a steadfast faith in Jesus, I can see times in my life where I behaved like Saul and used my power to persecute people who did not seem to share my values.  There were no chains and prisons involved, but yet I would use the power of my words and actions to marginalize someone or punish them in some way.  Facing these sins is so humiliating.  Yet when I sit with the memories I am also profoundly aware of God’s compassion.  It was through Jesus that the “scales would fall from my eyes” and I could see the other as a whole person loved by God.  I am grateful for the times that I have accepted the conversion invitations and I pray that I am always able to hear the Holy Spirit.

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