January 25, 2014 - 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 that anyone can be converted. 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, and we believe in the power of those prayers. Sometimes it seems impossible that mere prayers will change someone’s heart, but St. Paul could not have been converted by anything less than the appearance of Jesus Christ, who came in response to the prayers. In those days, praying for Saul would have seemed as pointless as anything. So our prayers today can seem weak, even though they are the strongest weapon we have. 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. If we want the makers of television and movies to stop showing pornography and start preaching the Gospel, we need to pray. We might wish that God would change the world in one fell swoop, but his actions are more like, as he says, yeast working in the dough, imperceptibly yet inexorably changing the world.

If we wish that God would hurry up the changes we pray for, there is one area of conversion in this world that we can speed up: ourselves. As we look outward at those hardened hearts which seem impossible to convert, we must also look inward at our own hearts. If we do not have any need for conversion, then Jesus has nothing to offer us. “Be the change you want to see 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? Must we wait until Jesus appears to us as a blinding light? Why not change today rather than wait for a sign? 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 people whom we always wanted to be.