Sunday, 25 January 2015 : Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the great feast of the conversion of the great Apostle St. Paul, who was once known as Saul, the great enemy and persecutor of the Church and the faithful ones of God. God made him to be an Apostle and the great champion of the Faith, spreading the Good News of the Gospel to the farthest ends of the known world at the time. By his works, many followed in his footsteps and were converted as well.

This is in line with the readings we heard today in the Holy Scriptures, the first reading taken from the Book of the prophet Jonah spoke of the repentance and penitence shown by the people of Nineveh, the great capital of the Assyrian Empire, which God had marked to be annihilated for their sins and wickedness. The people, from the king to the lowest servants and slaves immediately repented from their sins after they listened to the warnings of the prophet Jonah.

This is to highlight God’s nature, that is His love and mercy, which He freely gives to all those who put their trust in Him and those who want to be forgiven for their wickedness. Thus, He forgave those who have come to His throne and mercy, and most importantly, those who dedicated themselves to change their way of life and committed to a life free from sin and to walk in the way of the Lord from then on.

Thus was Paul forgiven and called by God, to change his ways of sin and wickedness, the sin of the rejection of Christ and of the persecution of the faithful ones of God, into one that is devoted to the salvation of souls and total faith and trust in God. Indeed, even today, we can only be truly amazed at how God called one of His greatest servants and defenders from among the sinners and among those who have once hated Him so much so as to swore to destroy His entire Church.

And in the Gospel today, the theme is repeated yet again, for God through Christ called the servants whom He would make to be His greatest servants and witnesses in the world, the Holy Apostles, who have been given the authority to teach and preach the Good News, the power to heal and to forgive sins, just as the Lord gave them all these.

This is to show us that God does not want to punish us sinners and rebels against His will, even though rightfully and justly we should have been punished very severely for the disobedience we have committed against the Lord. Yes, just as St. Paul who once as Saul became a scourge for the faithful, getting hundreds or maybe even thousands or more of the faithful of the early Church to become martyrs, and yet God was willing to forgive him and embrace him back into His love.

That is why we have to always remember that God truly loves us sinners, but He hates entirely our sins, our wickedness and all the filthy things we have committed in this life. Condemn not the sinners but the sin. That said, we must not have the false attitude of showing mercy to those who have committed sin but without seeking for their repentance and changing of their ways.

And why is this so important, brothers and sisters in Christ? If we look at what St. Paul himself wrote in the second reading, which was taken from his letter to the faithful in Corinth, he wrote about the imminence of the coming of the end, of the coming of the kingdom of God, and therefore, as we all should be aware of, that is the imminence of the coming of the last and final judgment of all creation, of all mankind.

Are we not too concerned of the fate of our fellow brethren? Are we all too selfish and concerned only about ourselves that we forget about others who still linger in the darkness and in sin? Are we proud of ourselves having been saved by the Lord and do we look down on those who are still filled with the filth of sin, without us offering a hand to help them out of their sinfulness into grace?

If our answers to all of this self-reflecting questions are yes, then we really have to look into ourselves, and ask us what is our faith truly about? Our faith in God is about believing in the Lord who have so much love for us sinners, that despite of all the filth of sin surrounding us, He still resolved to help and rescue us, and that was why He gave us Jesus His Son, to be our Redeemer.

Those of us who heard of the Good News of God and believed, and chose to accept Him as our Lord and Saviour, had been bathed and cleansed from the taints of our sins, of original sins and of our own sins, by the Blood of the Lamb of God, Christ who sacrificed Himself on the cross for us. By His death we were cast free from the suffering of death, and by His resurrection we are brought to a new life, life filled with the grace of God.

We have to realise that even great saints were themselves sinners once. No one was born a saint, except perhaps the Blessed Mother of our Lord, Mary, who was born clean and immaculate, free from sin, in order to prepare her in her role as the bearer of the Almighty God and Saviour, and of course our Lord Himself, born a Man and yet free from sin. All saints and holy people of God were once sinners too.

Yes, some saints were once murderers, adulterers, and we knew how St. Augustine lived in his youth, in debauchery and in the midst of worldliness, that his mother St. Monica prayed day and night with tears for the conversion of her son. And that is the attitude we should all have, to pray fervently for those around us who still sin, that they may receive the call and grace of God, and hope that they will turn their ways and embrace God’s mercy and forgiveness.

Like St. Paul, who had done so much great evils and sins in his youth, had he not been called, or if he had been rejected by God, and had he been rejected by the community of the faithful, then surely many countless souls would have been lost, those whom he had directly and indirectly touched throughout his long mission and service to God, whom without him would likely not have heard the word of God, spoken through St. Paul, the faithful servant, and the repentant sinner.

Therefore, shall we all realise that our action and proactive act are necessary for us to help our brethren to also find their way to the Lord? That is true Christian faith and true love, as Christ had taught us, that we embrace those who have hated and persecuted us because of our faith, those who have sinned and refused to believe in God, and by our actions, in which we show and infuse God’s love and mercy, we may bring them to realise the gravity of their sins, and the threat of eternal death they are facing, and therefore, immediately to turn their ways to find the Lord our God and their God, before it is too late for them.

May all of us be strengthened with the new Spirit of God, in the evangelisation and conversion of the world, so that many more people and many more souls can be saved and will be saved from the clutches of Satan, through our actions, be it through direct acts, or through our words and our loving acts to them, or even if it is through a simple prayer, prayed for their sake.

Let us all no longer be indifferent or ignorant of the plight of others around us who still dwell in sin, but let us free them, just as the Lord freed Saul from his sins and called him to be His servant, and thus let us help one another, to become holy people of God, saintly and devoted, that in the end, as many as possible are saved and brought into the Holy Presence of God. God be with us all, and forgive us sinners from our sins. Amen.