Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul, Apostle
Saul of Tarsus is a prime example of someone who resisted Jesus, the gentle conqueror, and since he believed Rome had effectively taken care of Him on the Cross, he went about trying to kill the message by wiping out the messengers. He could not possibly have realized, however, that Christ was not dead, and because He is Himself the message, even a man as persistent as Saul was doomed to fail in silencing it for good. It is ironic, then, that the one who sought to mute the Gospel would proclaim it louder than any of the Twelve.
Today’s Gospel begins with Jesus appearing to the Eleven: they are down one man on account of Judas’s betrayal. Yet Jesus’ words are not merely for them; it is as if anybody could step in and restore their number. You could be the Twelfth. You are the Twelfth. For in baptism, are you not chosen and called, by name, into Christ’s number, as were the apostles? “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain.” (John 15:16) It is not merely the task of the Eleven, and later Saul and others, to preach the Gospel and carry out Christ’s mission of building the Kingdom on earth; the task falls to us all, the Body of Christ, His hands and feet on this earth.
Just as yesterday we were told our mission, today we are sent out, and the need for our work is vital; it is literally the difference between life and death: “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved.” And do not fear being ill-equipped or unfit for this great work; Jesus promises that His power goes with us. Saul never imagined doing all that he did in his amazing life, yet Christ came to him and not only called him by name, but by a new name—Paul—so transformed was he by his encounter with the Lord.
The departure of Judas left a wound in the heart of Christ’s fellowship; each of us are called to take his place, to join the Apostles in continuing the ministry of Christ on this earth. You are called not because you are qualified, but because of God’s love for you and His certain knowledge that you and only you can do the work He has in mind for you. Saul, the devout and passionate Jew was called to be Paul, Christ’s instrument to the Gentiles. Simon the fisherman was made Peter, the foundation of the Church. Jesus seems always to call the least qualified individuals for what would be His most important tasks; do not think yourself disqualified for any reason from His saving work. For the Jesus who fed thousands with but a young boy’s snack can surely do great things with you, if you but trust Him with your life.