Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle, marking that significant moment in the history of the Church when Saul, one of the greatest bane and enemy of the faithful, its arch-persecutor turned to become one of the Church’s greatest champion and the Lord’s greatest and most passionate defender, from a man who could not stop in his zeal to destroy the Christian faith and persecute all Christians who followed the Lord to a man who courageously stood up against the world in the defence of his true faith in God.
In our first reading we heard the account of what happened when St. Paul was converted, the moment when the young and overzealous Pharisee, Saul of Tarsus, came to be a follower of Christ. Saul of Tarsus was a member of the elite among the Jewish community as he was not only just a member of the Pharisees, one of the two most powerful influential groups at the time, but he was also a Roman citizen and not only that, he was a Roman citizen by birth, signifying that he was truly an individual of an astounding background, a great rising star among the Jewish people.
He was misguided by his intense zeal in following the ideas of the Pharisees, in their misunderstanding and stubborn refusal to believe in the Lord and His truth despite all the signs and the proofs that He had revealed to them in many occasions. The Pharisees and many among the elders and the teachers of the Law viewed the Lord Jesus as a false Messiah and even a blasphemer and traitor to their nation, as a threat to their power and influence. And the young Saul therefore followed in this mindset and took action to strike at those who believed in the Lord.
Hence, Saul was responsible for the many often violent mob actions against the early Christians, including that of St. Stephen, the first martyr of the Church, whose martyrdom was the first mention of his name and presence. It was mentioned how he approved of the stoning and killing of St. Stephen, and then later on, went on to carry out many more acts of violence against Christians, trying to eradicate the Christian faith and the Lord’s followers which then rapidly spread throughout Judea, Galilee and beyond.
That was why it was truly amazing when God chose and called Saul to be His follower and servant, as He came to Saul who was on his way to Damascus to eradicate the Christians there. The Lord came to Saul and revealed Himself and told him all the truth, and Saul, blinded by that vision, was eventually restored in his eyesight and together with it came a new resolution in life as he asked to be baptised in the Name of the Lord, by Ananias, one of the disciples of the Lord whom the Lord called to heal Saul and to open his mind to the truth of God.
St. Paul therefore came to become a most faithful and dedicated servant of the Lord. He changed his name from Saul to Paul to indicate this change in his way of life, as at that time, customarily the change in name indicate a major change or shift in life, just as when Simon was given the name Cephas or Kephas, meaning Rock, which we know as Peter. There were others who had also received or adopted a new name to signify the change in their path in life among other things.
Thus, as we have heard in our Gospel passage today, how the Lord commissioned His disciples to go forth to the world and proclaim the Good News, He has called on many to follow Him and to be His witnesses, so that many more people may come to believe in Him as well. He calls on all of us to embrace His truth and to show that same truth to others by our own life and dedication. St. Paul had committed himself and his life to follow the Lord in this way, in giving his life to serve the Lord and abandoning all the prospects and good life he once had earlier on.
Through what St. Paul had gone through, his conversion experience and his later complete dedication to the Lord, all of us are reminded that each and every one of us have been given many opportunities by the Lord to embrace Him and to find our path to Him, and at the same time, also given the chances to contribute to the works and missions that He has entrusted to each and every one of us as His disciples.
And if any of us are hesitant or think that we are unworthy of doing so, then we should consider how Saul, the great enemy and bane of Christians, a great sinner and a most unlikely candidate had been chosen by God to be His own greatest champion. Throughout the history of Christianity and the Church, there had been many other great saints who were once great sinners. What matters is that, each and every one of them atoned from their sins and turned away from their evil ways, embracing the Lord wholeheartedly and served Him, becoming great beacons and witnesses of His light and truth.
Now, today as we recall the dedication that St. Paul had given throughout his life and as we look upon the good examples set by our many predecessors in faith, let us all therefore see in what way we can commit ourselves better to serve the Lord. We are called to follow Him and to be genuine in how we love Him and embrace His truth in our every moment. Are we willing and able to give our best to live our lives as Christians, in the best way possible? Are we capable of following God not just for appearances and as formality, but truly dedicated to Him in our hearts?
Let us therefore renew our commitment to the Lord and do our best to live our lives as those who call themselves as Christians, and strive to be faithful witnesses of Our Lord in the world today, in our respective communities. Let our actions, words and deeds inspire one another that we may indeed proclaim the glory of God and reveal His truth and love to more and more people. May God be with us always and may He empower each one of us to live ever more virtuously and be ever more courageous to live our lives in faith, always. Amen.