Friday, January 25, 2013

Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul the Apostle

(Acts 22:3-16; Mark 16:15-18)

Ending the Week of Christian Unity on the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul may give the impression that Orthodox, Protestant, and Catholic Christians hope to convert one another. But this, of course, is not at issue in the ecumenical project. The occasion is nevertheless appropriate because all people must undergo continual conversion if they are to become holy. The Shaker song “Tis a Gift to Be Simple” expresses this necessity well: “… by turning, turning we come round right.”

Paul’s life underwent various conversions. The most dramatic turning is recorded in today’s first reading where Paul is changed from a zealous Jew to a radical Christian. Another turning point comes with the catastrophe of trying to preach logically to the Athenians at the Areopagus. Rebuffed, he decides that from then on, he will preach only Christ crucified. Perhaps another conversion takes place as Paul stops preaching to Jews in synagogues and starts talking to pagan clients as he plies his tent making trade.

Most of us would do well to attempt the following simple conversion. Rather than refrain from talking about religion among friends and family because of the differences that the topic arouses, we should declare what God has done in our lives and ask our associates to tell about their faith experiences. Also, sharing prayer as we break bread and perhaps again at the end of an evening will weave webs of mutual respect and, with God’s grace, eventual unity.