Today’s Feast: Conversion of St. Paul
Acts 22:3-16 – Psalm 117 – Mark 16:15-18
“Go out to all the world and tell the Good News.” (Today’s Responsorial Verse.)
When I first entered the Dominicans in 1959, and before Martin de Porres was canonized, this was the “feast day” for the lay-brothers. I think the only connection for this, was the fact that in those days the lay brothers in the Order were referred to as, “conversii” in Latin documents. This name was derived from that fact that applicants to the Order as lay brothers were often men who had been “converted” from a less desirable way of life and sought admittance as lay brothers to quietly amend their lives by silent prayer and works of service to the community. In many ways it was a reminder to all of us that we need constant and on-going “conversion” in our lives.
There are two “themes” in this celebration that might be of help to all of us: the great light that shines from the Heavens and the “voice of God” assuring us that something wonderful is about to happen in our lives.
We get our popular phrase, “I saw the light” from encounters like this and all of us need to be able to open our ears to hear what God has to say to us about our life and our ministry.
At Jesus’ baptism the heavens open up (letting the “light of heaven” shine forth) and the voice of God says, “this is my beloved son, on whom my favor rests. Listen to Him.” Later on, when Jesus takes the special three up the mountain of Transfiguration, the same thing happens: the “glory of the Lord” or light of God shines forth and the voice proclaims the greatness of Jesus presence.
The presence of “light” shines all throughout both the Old and New Testaments from the beginning of Genesis (“and God said, ‘Let there be light.’”) all the way through the Israelites wanderings (the ‘pillar of light’ to guide them) to the great light of resurrection and this light that transforms Saul, a persecutor into Paul an apostle.
Conversion – or turning around – is an on-going part of our Christian life. All of us need to “see the light” and be knocked down from our presumptions so that we can rise up to the new life that God wants for us. But this process is not always easy because it requires that we totally transform our way of seeing ourselves in relation to God. We might, for a time, have to endure a kind of blindness before we are eventually able to see what God has called us to. Like Saul we have to ask, “Who are you?” and “What do you want of me?” Then, we need to wait to hear the answer. Amen!