By: Ivonne J. Hernandez
Today the Church celebrates the Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul, Apostle, “the day that Christ appeared to him in a vision as he was on his way to Damascus, reproached him for his persecutions and converted him to the true faith.”* I find it interesting that the feast day is not called the “Conversion of Saul”, but rather, the “Conversion of Saint Paul, Apostle”. Saul didn’t get converted that day; he died, and Paul rose in his place.
In Paul’s letter to the Galatians, chapter 1, he recounts, “Then God, who had specially chosen me while I was still in my mother’s womb, called me through his grace and chose to reveal his Son in me, so that I might preach the Good News about him to the pagans.” He was chosen by God, called by God, and sent by God.
First of all, we know that Paul did not receive instruction from the other apostles. He begins his letter saying, “Now I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel preached by me is not of human origin. For I did not receive it from a human being, nor was I taught it, but it came through a revelation of Jesus Christ.” So, this knowledge Paul has about having been chosen in his mother’s womb, did not come as a result of intellectual pursuit, nor of faith in some teacher or other, but it was revealed directly from God. Before Paul can receive his mission, before he is even called, God lets him know he is infinitely loved. What comes next is truly amazing, Paul says, God “called me through his grace and chose to reveal his Son in me.” The new man that rose that day, Paul, was no other than Jesus Christ in him.
“You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb” (Ps 139:13). Just like God formed Jesus in his mother’s womb, he forms Him in us while we are still in our mother’s womb. He chooses each one of us and loves us into being. Then, at the right time, He calls us though His grace, so that we can then say, “I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me” (Gal 2:20). Unlike St. Paul’s dramatic conversion, most of us will spend our lifetime shedding the old self and growing into the image of the Son in us. Even if we feel we are not ready, through the grace of the sacraments, Jesus can already begin His work. We just need to remember through Whom are we chosen, called and sent. “For we are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works that God has prepared in advance, that we should live in them.” (Eph 2:10).
* From Universalis: About Today (25-Jan-2020)