Acts 22:3-16 or Acts 9:1-22
Conversion of St. Paul
Today is the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. This great apostle, formerly known as Saul of Tarsus, is one of the most important saints in the early Church. Were it not for what happened that day on the road to Damascus we would be missing 13 of the 27 books of the New Testament canon and there would not have been Christianities early, dramatic expansion to the Gentile world.
A while ago I read something that caught my attention. A number of years ago there was a survey of academics from a number of disciplines trying to compile a list of people who had the greatest influence on Western civilization. Who was number one? I was surprised to see it wasn’t Jesus. Actually number one was Alexander the Great because it was he who spread the Hellenistic culture throughout the known world and in the minds of those scholars that had a profound influence on the way we view and understand our natural and metaphysical world. In this survey Jesus was actually tied with St. Paul the Apostle for fifth place! The point is not that Jesus came in so far back. Most people, in fact, would surely argue with that ranking. No, the point is that in the eyes of the academic community in this survey Paul was so high on the list. The impact of his important life and work lead directly to the spread and eventual success of the early Christian Church. With his dedicated evangelism of the gentiles, this small sect within the Judaism of Jesus became instead the major world religion that it is.
Academicians aside, people of faith know that something powerful and of God’s Spirit was at work here. Paul’s life took a new direction and so did the Church. The words of Jesus in today’s Gospel tell his followers: "Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature!" This has happened over the past two millennia and with the grace of God it will continue until all is accomplished.
In 2009, we completed "The Year of Paul," marking the 2000th anniversary of his birth. From June 28, 2008 to June 29, 2009, there were numerous celebrations, courses, workshops and study groups that took special note of this great saint and apostle. Although the special year is over, the spirit of Paul remains. And so does the work that Jesus called us to: Go out to all the world and proclaim the Good News!
Fr. Jim Strommer, C.P. is the local superior of Christ the King Passionist Community in Citrus Heights, California.