On this day, January 25, the Church asks us to reflect on one of the most unexpected turn of events in early Christianity. The man, who despised and passionately hunted down Christians, himself became one! St. Paul’s own conversion gives us hope that even the most hardened opponent to Christ can become his follower.
St. Paul’s conversion experience changed him forever, though not in the way that you might think. Here’s a few points to consider:
i. Conversion doesn’t make us someone that we are not, but it helps us to become the best version of ourselves. In everything he did, St. Paul was a passionate man. It’s who he was. It was his zeal that pushed him to take on the mission of rounding up the Christians to have them brought before the Council in Jerusalem to be tried as heretics and blasphemers. Notice that after his conversion St. Paul didn’t all of sudden mellow out. Rather, the Lord harnessed his natural qualities, purified them, and then used them for spreading the Gospel. Conversion doesn’t take away our God given gifts, qualities, and personality, but helps to order them so that they are directed in the right way to attain the most amount of good and sanctity.
ii. Conversion is ongoing. On the road to Damascus St. Paul’s life would forever change and it’s true that from that moment on he began to follow Jesus. But this doesn’t mean that he didn’t need to purify his intentions, work on his sanctity, and try to fight against temptations to evil. Conversion is a choice, it’s something we actively decide each day and each moment of every day. We must choose to be a faithful follower of Jesus. And if we fail in some way, it doesn’t mean our conversion never happened, it just means that we still have need for the power of God in our lives. Our goal is not merely to be ‘good’ or ‘nice’ people, but to be a perfect reflection of Jesus Christ. For sure this is intimidating, but slowly, each day, with the grace of God, we can get there.
Check out the following video from Scott Hahn on St. Paul’s conversion. He has many great insights including the above two which I gleaned from this video.