January 25, 2013 - Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul, Apostle

Acts 22:3-16 or 9:1-22
Psalm 117:1-2
Mark 16:15-18

The conversion of St. Paul proves the possibility of the conversion of anyone. St. Paul hated Christianity. He was not merely ambivalent. His life’s purpose was killing and arresting Christians. He helped kill St. Stephen the deacon, who prayed for his persecutors as he was dying. We believe in the power of those prayers. Sometimes it seems impossible that prayers will change someone’s heart, but St. Paul could not have been converted by anything less, just as St. Augustine was converted by the prayers of his mother; just as countless people have been converted by the prayers of another. If we want to bring about the end of abortion in this country, we need to pray for conversions. If we want to have peace and prosperity in this country, we need to pray for conversions. If we want the makers of television and movies to stop showing pornography and start preaching the Gospel, we need to pray for conversions.

And as we look outward at those hardened hearts which seem impossible to convert, we must also look inward at our own hearts. St. Paul says that he was a very zealous follower of God. Indeed, that is why he felt compelled to kill Christians. When we consider ourselves, if we do not have any need for conversion, then Jesus has nothing to offer us. Jesus came to change the world by starting a Church and then dying for it. We might disagree with his methods of changing the world, with the speed at which the world is changing, but the only place we have the power to make the change is in our own hearts.

“Be the change you want to be in the world.” Someone said that. No one knows who, though people often attribute it to one famous person or another. Regardless, it is a very Christian concept: revolution through conversion. How much good can be traced back to the conversion we celebrate today! What if we had a conversion like that? What is stopping us? Is it because Jesus does not appear and blind us? We who want the world to change must not let anything prevent us from changing. The appearance might not be there, but the grace is. The same powerful God who turned Saul into Paul can turn me into who he wants me to be, can turn you into who he wants you to be; he can turn us into the person who we always wanted to be.