The 25th January is the Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul. I’m sure we all know the story of Saint Paul. When he was Saul, he was a persecutor of Christians. One day he was off to Damascus (to persecute some more Christians) when he was suddenly blinded by a bright light. This event, and those that followed, resulted in one of the most well known accounts of conversion in the bible and a change in the course of the new Christian Church.
Saul convinced the high priest to allow him to go to Damascus and bring back any men who belonged to ‘the Way’. Saul wanted to punish these disciples of Jesus and convince them to give up their newly found beliefs. While Saul was travelling, the sky around him suddenly flashed white and he heard a voice crying out, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ Saul soon discovered that the voice belonged to Jesus, ‘I am Jesus, who you are persecuting.’
This revelation must have been a shock to Saul. Jesus was the claimed Messiah of those who followed ‘the Way.’ The one whom the Romans had executed. The one who was dead?
When Saul rose from the ground, he could not see. He was completely blind. He had to be lead to the city by the men he travelled with. A man who lived in the city, Ananias, was told by the Lord to go and see Saul. Ananias went to Saul and told him he had been sent by the Lord. He laid his hands on Saul and told him, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’ Immediately, Saul’s sight returned. Saul regained his sight, was baptised, and instantly began to preach about Jesus in the synagogues of Damascus.
Saul, who was now known as Paul, underwent a dramatic and profound change. Paul’s experience lead him to convert disciples of the Lord instead of persecuting them. Paul preached the gospel to everyone he could reach. He preached orally and wrote letters. His message was to have a profound impact.Paul became known as the apostle to the Gentiles. He was instrumental in spreading the gospel of Jesus far and wide. He addressed, and fixed, the problems which arose as the early Church grew and became established. Paul worked tirelessly to extend Christianity beyond the Jewish world.
Paul’s conversion was dramatic. He not only stopped persecuting Christians, but he changed his whole life to reflect the teachings of Jesus and made a career out of sharing those teachings with as many people as he could. Paul found grace, love and mercy so deep, that it reached even him; persecutor of Christians. He was awoken to his own sin. Paul’s conversion resulted in a significant and sincere change of heart. It also resulted in a significant change of direction in Paul’s life. When Paul received the grace of God, he was forgiven and became a new man.
All Christians are called to conversion. We are called to a change of heart. We are called to recognise our own sins. We can be forgiven and become new again. This is not a one time event. It is ongoing throughout our whole lives. We must work constantly to change our hearts to be more open to God, so that we can align ourselves to God. Nothing can separate us from God’s love!