Homily for the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul
Theme: DOES YOUR PRESENCE INVOKES GOD’S PRESENCE
By: Rev. Fr. Utazi Prince Marie Benignus
Homily for Monday January 25 2021
Acts 22: 3-16 or Acts 9: 1-22; Psalm 117: 1bc, 2; Mark 16: 15-18
I pray for you: May you continue to proclaim that Jesus is Lord of your life by the way you live your life, particularly in the loving service of others. AMEN
Today is the octave of Prayer for Christian Unity. Ask yourself, how much (in terms of effort) you have contributed to the Unity of Christians. What and what have you done? God is watching us my dear brother, my dear sister. Help the Church of God on earth to grow. Preach peace and unity. Preach peace and love and justice.
Now to the homily of today. I know individuals who make conversations and actions change when they walk into a room. Before they enter the room, the conversion may be a bit vulgar, rude and dirty, or dirty jokes and foul language may be the talk. Once the believer walks into the room, the conversation is immediately cleaned up. The believer does not have to say anything, but the other persons in the room know for what the believer stands and they respect the believer and do not want to speak like they were speaking before the believer enters the room. It is not out of fear of what the believer will say or do, it is because the people understand what the believer believes and they honor the believer and the believer’s convictions. We should all have such convictions and be able to sway the actions and words of others to more positive position, simply by our presence which proclaims the presence of the Lord Jesus.
Both of the two options for the First Reading recount the story of the conversion of St. Paul. What strikes me about the reading(s) from the Acts of the Apostles is St. Paul’s determination. As a strict Jew, a Pharisee and a follower of Gamaliel— a famous rabbi, Saul had been brought up with the concept of being a faithful believer in the one God. Saul was so convinced of his ways that he mounted a crusade to put an end to *the people of the Way (the group of Jews who claimed that Jesus was divine and the Son of God and that He saved people through His death and resurrection).* It was while he was on this crusade to extinguish the early Christians in Damascus that he was enlightened – he saw the light. It was blinding. And he heard the voice of Jesus saying: “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?” Saul was not only fighting against a group of people who followed Jesus, but Jesus Himself. This was the start of Paul’s conversion. In Acts 22: 3-16, Paul tells this story of his own conversion while he, himself, is on trial for being a Christian. He is still very determined, but now his determination is in defense of the Christian Way. There is no doubt that he is now preaching a different Gospel than he has before his conversion. He is willing to face imprisonment, suffering, and even death in order to help spread the Word and proclaim the Good News to all creation. His life speaks of his dedication to being an apostle, “one who is sent”, and an evangelist, “Good News announcer”. There is so much evidence that Paul is a converted man, a man of the Way— the early name for Christianity.
The Gospel comes from the end of St. Mark’s Gospel, after the resurrection, when Jesus commission His apostles to go out to all the world and proclaim the Good News to all creation.
Dear Sisters and Brothers, ask yourself this question: “If I am put on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict me?” And I think that is a valid question for each of us today. For St. Paul, there was more than enough evidence to convict him of being a Christian. Not only did he call himself a follower of Jesus, he preached the Good News, suffered persecution, and lived a life that proclaimed that Jesus is Lord. Is there enough evidence in my life to be used to show that I am a Christian? It is easy to say, “I am Christian” when there is nothing at risk. For some people it is fashionable to say they are a Christian, a church goer. Speaking such words, however, is not enough evidence. There should be some hard evidence, some actions which prove that one is a follower of Jesus. Jesus said, “They will know you are My follower if you love one another as I have loved you” (John 13: 35). My life should be marked by love, punctuated by acts of service. I also must be able to stand up for what I believe and not be ashamed of my lifestyle. People must be able to see who my Master and Lord is by the way I live my life.
All of us who call ourselves Christian must continually go through conversion, as St. Paul did. We need to keep looking at our lives and see where our dedication is. Are we only caught up in the rituals and external trappings of being a believer, or have we gone the further step and centered our lives on the person of Jesus? Are we willing to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ in our life style, by living lives that proclaim God’s love and peace, justice and mercy and unity for all people? Do our actions reflect our Master so that people can say to us, “I know who your Master is, it is Jesus.” Hopefully none of us will ever have to go on trial for being Christians, but if we do, let us be willing to have left enough evidence to convict us of being a disciple of Jesus, the Christ, and our Lord. Jesus is my Master. Christianity is my DNA. Stand up for Jesus. Love and cherish Jesus’ brothers and Sisters. It shall be well with you. Amen.
*MEDITATION* What evidence is there in my life which honestly could be used to convict me of being a Christian? Am I willing to undergo whatever trials might be ahead of me as a sign of my conversion of heart to Jesus? How can I give witness to my dedication to the cause of the Lord Jesus? What can I do to help others who are faced with decision about giving their lives to the Lord Jesus, even at the cost of rejection and persecution?
*PRAYER* Lord God, may our lives give witness to our belief in Jesus as our Lord and Master, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. . Amen.
*O DIVINE WORD WHO TOOK FLESH FOR HUMAN SAKE, REDEEM US IN OUR SITUATIONS*
©️ Rev. Fr. Utazi Prince Marie Benignus