HOMILY FOR THE FEAST OF THE CONVERSION OF ST. PAUL. (1)










HOMILY FOR THE FEAST OF THE CONVERSION OF ST. PAUL.

THEME: MISSION OF EVERY CHRISTIAN.

BY: Fr. Mike Lagrimas
St. Michael the Archangel Parish
Diocese of Novaliches

HOMILY FOR JANUARY 25TH

Mk 16:15-18

Jesus said to them, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned. These signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will drive out demons, they will speak new languages. They will pick up serpents [with their hands], and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them. They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

We celebrate the Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul. His original name was Saul of Tarsus. He was a Pharisee. In fact, he was a zealous Pharisee. So, when he heard about the emergence of the ‘Followers of the New Way’, as what the early Christians were called then, he saw this as a threat to the Jewish religion. So, he relentlessly persecuted the Christians. In fact, he was present while St. Stephen, the first martyr of the Church, was being stoned to death (Acts 9:1-2). But on his way to Damascus, he met the Lord. A sudden and bright light from heaven struck him, and he fell to the ground. And he heard the voice of the Lord: “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? …I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting” (Acts 9:4, 5).

There are several important lessons we can learn from this celebration. First, Jesus identifies Himself with His followers. Saul was not persecuting Jesus; he was persecuting His followers. But Jesus said: “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.” Indeed, Jesus has always been true to His promise: “And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Mt 28:20).
In the midst of life’s trials and tribulations, the Lord assures us: “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in their midst” (Mt 18:20). And this also should remind us to always be conscious of the presence of the Lord in our fellow men. Hence, we need to treat one another with love and compassion.

Second, after that encounter on the road, Saul did not immediately proclaim the Gospel. Instead he went to Arabia and later returned to Damascus to receive instructions and guidance from Ananias. It was only after three years that he went up to Jerusalem to begin his ministry (Gal 1:17-18). In other words, that encounter on the road was just the beginning of a long journey of conversion. Conversion is a long process.

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But conversion is just half of the story. St. Paul himself avoided using the word “conversion” in reference to that encounter with the Lord on the road to Damascus. In his Letter to the Galatians 1:15-16, he describes the event, not as conversion, but as the moment of his calling. He uses the words “chosen” (“set apart”) in the womb of his mother, “called” by God, and “revealed” to him His Son, so that he might “proclaim” Jesus to the Gentiles. In short, his conversion is directed towards one purpose: the proclamation of the Gospel. It is his mission, in response to the Lord’s command in the Gospel today: “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature” (Mk 16:15). Saul embarked on this mission. From Saul, he became Paul. Taking a new name signifies new mission and direction in life. From being persecutor of Christians, he becomes the ‘Apostle to the Gentiles’, and ‘Apostle to the Nations’. Indeed, he went all over the world spreading the Gospel of Christ to all nations.

This feast reminds us that as Christians, we are essentially missionary. The faith we received is meant to be shared. And the more we share it, the stronger and more vibrant it becomes. This is St. Paul’s realization in his Letter to the Corinthians: “If I preach the gospel, this is no reason for me to boast, for an obligation has been imposed on me, and woe to me if I do not preach it!” (1Cor 9:16). If we as Christians do not proclaim the truth of the Gospel during this difficult period in our history, woe to us! Sooner or later, we ourselves may be the next victims of the culture of death.

May the Apostle Paul inspire us to be steadfast in our resolve to follow the Lord. And may his example of apostolic zeal and courage awaken in us the sincere desire to share and proclaim the Gospel of Jesus to a world darkened by sin, errors and lies. During this fifth centenary of Christianity in the Philippines, may we seriously respond to the call of our bishops in “Becoming Jesus’ Missionary Disciples.”

Fr. Mike Lagrimas
St. Michael the Archangel Parish
Diocese of Novaliches

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