Cardinal 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?