Conversion of St Paul
entire life can be explained in terms of one experience his meeting with Jesus on the road to
Damascus. In an instant, he saw that all the zeal of his dynamic personality was being wasted, like
the strength of a boxer swinging wildly. Perhaps he had never seen Jesus, who was only a few years
older. But he had acquired a zealot's hatred of all Jesus stood for, as he began to harass the
Church: "...entering house after house and dragging out men and women, he handed them over for
imprisonment" (Acts 8:3b). Now he himself was "entered," possessed, all his energy harnessed to one
goal being a slave of Christ in the ministry of reconciliation, an instrument to help others
experience the one Savior.
One sentence determined his theology: "I am Jesus, whom you
are persecuting" (Acts 9:5b). Jesus was mysteriously identified with people the loving group of
people Saul had been running down like criminals. Jesus, he saw, was the mysterious fulfillment of
all he had been blindly pursuing.
From then on, his only work was to
"present everyone perfect in Christ. For this I labor and struggle, in accord with the exercise of
his power working within me" (Colossians 1:28b-29). "For our gospel did not come to you in word
alone, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and [with] much conviction" (1 Thessalonians
Paul's life became a tireless proclaiming and living out of the message of the
cross: Christians die baptismally to sin and are buried with Christ; they are dead to all that is
sinful and unredeemed in the world. They are made into a new creation, already sharing Christ's
victory and someday to rise from the dead like him. Through this risen Christ the Father pours out
the Spirit on them, making them completely new.
So Paul's great message to the world
was: You are saved entirely by God, not by anything you can do. Saving faith is the gift of total,
free, personal and loving commitment to Christ, a commitment that then bears fruit in more "works"
than the Law could ever contemplate.
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