Saturday, January 26, 2019

The Conversion of St. Paul

I know the story; I've both read it myself, heard it at Mass, and even seen it portrayed on that animated VHS tape I watched as a little kid. The story of Saul-turned-Paul; the persecutor-turned-disciple. Yet as I sat in the wooden pew with my kids on Friday morning, the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, the words struck me in a new way. 

In Acts 22, Paul recounts the story of his conversion. He was travelling to Damascus to capture Christians and bring them back to Jerusalem in chains. But then, on the journey to Damascus, he fell to the ground when Jesus spoke to him and completely turned his life upside-down (Acts 22:6-10). So, the now-blinded Saul went on with his companions to Damascus, where the devout Ananias told him to seek Baptism and become a witness to God's work. We all know the story, and St. Paul is famous and well-loved. Verses from his epistles adorn many a decorative wall hanging or pillow. 

However, hearing these words from Scripture fill the small chapel that morning, I was struck by the context of it all. St. Paul wasn't just living a humdrum life when he encountered Christ. His conversion to Christianity wasn't just some nice, comfy little transition. He was persecuting Christians. Furthermore, when he had that famous "fall-to-the-ground" moment, he was travelling to capture more Christians. But instead of sticking with his original plan, he let God derail his plans completely and he cooperated with the grace that he was given. Instead of ignoring God's voice and seeking out people to imprison, he sought out Ananias and the sacrament of Baptism. 

God derailed his plans, and he just went with it. 

How many, many times in my life have I stubbornly tried to adhere to my "original" plan, instead of cooperating with the movements of the Holy Spirit in a different direction? 

How many times do I still jealously grab onto my initial plans, hopes, and dreams without a thought to what God actually wants me to do? 

How many times do I justify my actions with "I'm zealous for God and I know His law" without looking to see if my actions align with God's Word? 

St. Paul, who saw God turn his life and work upside-down, please pray for me, that I may have the courage to follow God wherever his Spirit leads, even if my "original plans" are dismantled in the process. 

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