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 follower of Christ. Another turning point comes with the attempt 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 with others because of the differences it arouses, we should declare what God has done in our lives. We might also 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. In these ways and, of course, with God’s grace, eventual unity will take place.