Monday, January 25, 2010

Paul's Ongoing Conversion


Today is the feast traditionally refered to as the Conversion of St. Paul. Paul would be the first to tell us that it happened all at once and over a lifetime. We can refer to this feast as the feast of the Transformation of St. Paul or we can, in the words so "charismatic" in Pauline Spirituality, call this feast the "Ongoing Conversion" of St. Paul.

It is interesting to note the readings you can choose from for today's Mass. One reading (Acts 22:3-16) is Pauls' description of his conversion. The other (Acts 9:1-22) is Luke's description. Paul relates that he could not see because of the brilliance of the light eminating from Christ. His companions saw the light but could not hear the voice of Jesus. In Luke's account Paul's companions could hear the voice but could not see. Paul reminds his readers that Aninias was a devout observer of the law and delivered a special message regarding Paul's unique mission. Luke, instead, tells us more about Aninias dialogue with the Lord about Paul and has Jesus telling Aninias Paul's mission. In Paul's account Aninias tells Paul not to delay, to be baptised. This leads us to beleive Paul just walked over to the baptismal waters. Luke's account adds reminds the reader that this was a community effort. Paul got up and was baptised and after taking food received his strength back. If his strength didn't return until after a meal you can imagine a group of Christians standing around to prop him up a bit as he was baptised.

As I read and reflect on these passages I find wonderful signs that Paul told one version of what happened - colorful and more Paul oriented. Luke had another recollection - Christ and Spirit centered. Yet both originate with Paul. The only explaination is Paul's continual spiritual growth in the Spirit until his "Christ lives in me" (Gal.2:20) which continually renewed his understanding that his vocation was pure gift - since birth.

Today, as we celebrate Paul's conversion we remember that his was a constant turning toward God throughout life from his childhood faith, his teen faith, his young adult experience, and finally his recognition of the darkness that blinded him on the road to Damacus, as a "bright light." He lived in continual conversions by the grace of God in Christ through the Spirit. This is also our journey and our prayer.

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