Triduum of St. Paul’s Conversion – Day 2

gospelaccdingtopaulCardinal Martini’s inspiring book, The Gospel According to Paul, opens with a wonderful reflection on St. Paul’s conversion. Cardinal Martini focuses on the reality that St. Paul’s experience on the road to Damascus wasn’t so much about Paul changing his mind or behavior. Paul encountered Christ on the road to Damascus and that encounter immediately and powerfully transformed his life…forever.

 Paul discovered that:

  • He had been wrong about Jesus, who was not a false messiah. Jesus is the living Son of God, risen from the dead.
  • Jesus freely and lovingly chose to reveal himself to Paul.
  • Jesus was mysteriously connected to his followers, so that when Paul persecuted the first followers of Jesus, he was persecuting Jesus.
  • Jesus was calling Paul to a special mission: tocommunicate him to the world
  • Jesus was also calling Paul to share in Jesus’ sufferings. 

Paul’s encounter with Christ was powerfully personal. At the moment of the deepest error, humiliation, and confusion of Paul’s whole life–at the very moment when Paul realizes he has been tragically wrong about Jesus, Jesus himself appears to Paul and calls Paul to carry out a special mission. No wonder Paul couldn’t eat or drink for three days. He was “taking in” the amazing reality of Jesus’ love and trust in him!

For many of us, the moments of our first personal encounter with God and our discovery of our “mission” in life are separate. But often, the “seed” of our mission is hidden within our earliest encounters with God. Thanks to my parents, my own relationship with God started when I was a very young child. It grew very gradually. But I still remember several powerful early encounters with God, when I was moved to tears by how Jesus loved me–so much that he gave his life for me. God’s love for me continues to be the bedrock of my spiritual life; and my mission, my life as a Daughter of St. Paul is all about sharing that same love of God in Christ that I receive, with as many people as possible.

What is your Damascus experience?

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3 thoughts on “Triduum of St. Paul’s Conversion – Day 2

  1. “At the moment of the deepest error, humiliation, and confusion of Paul’s whole life–at the very moment when Paul realizes he has been tragically wrong about Jesus, Jesus himself appears to Paul and calls Paul to carry out a special mission.”

    Do we know that Paul was already leaning towards Christ when he was dazzled by the vision? I’ve always assumed as such, because otherwise Jesus infringed on his free will — if Saul was still in zealot mode.

    Is there a scripture reference that speaks to Paul’s frame of mind just prior to the vision? Does he allude to it in his later writings?

    I could just go read my Bible, but seeing as your an expert in this area….

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    • Thanks for the “expert” compliment!

      We really don’t have any indication of what Paul was thinking beforehand. We can speculate whether witnessing Stephen’s death raised doubts, even though Paul decides after Stephen’s death to go even further. Another clue is that we know from Acts that Paul’s teacher, Gamaliel, encouraged the Sanhedrin to simply let the new followers of Christ be. Gamaliel could have cautioned Paul in a way that set off some doubts or an interior struggle. But we don’t know.

      What is clear is that being an ordinary Pharisee wasn’t enough for Paul. He wanted to go further than anyone else, which is why he wanted to persecute the followers of Jesus as “heretics” or betrayers of their Jewish heritage. As a Pharisee, Paul was very devout in wanting to do God’s will. Whatever Paul’s attitude was before he saw Jesus, I don’t think that Jesus violated his freedom–all Jesus did was appear to Paul and speak to him. Even before Paul was struck blind, he asked Jesus what did Jesus want him to do…which seems to indicate that almost instantly, Paul recognized that Jesus is God and that Jesus loved him so much that he chose to reveal himself to Paul, and give him a unique mission.

      I think that when we are able to truly see Jesus for who he is, we are swept off our feet with joy. And Paul was already a very devout man, even if he had been in error about the followers of Jesus.

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