Conversion of St Paul – II

Friends in Christ, today we celebrate the Conversion of St. Paul.
In St. Paul, we find a man who was well-educated, having gone to the great school of Gamaliel. By the time he finished Pharisee school, he was part of the effort to stop Christians. Scripture says that he was ‘breathing murderous threats against the disciples of the Lord.’ He would go house to house, dragging out Christians and shipping them off in chains to Jerusalem. It was St. Paul who oversaw the stoning of Stephen and he was very pleased about it.
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We think of such a man, who had such great stature and education, and yet, who had become an arch-enemy of Christ? But we should not be scandalized by this. There is an expression, ‘but for the grace of God, there go I.’ It means that each of us is also capable of doing great evil. And who knows, if we were in the circumstances of others, if God had not blessed us so much with grace, perhaps we would be just as bad.
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So what can we learn from St. Paul? One thing is, we can learn how our past sins – and we have them – we can see how our past sins can actually help us to love God more. When we think of our past sins, and then we think of how God has never given up on us, but has kept seeking and forgiving us – well – it makes us love him all the more.
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Seeing God’s mercy in our life, being full of gratitude, his allowing us to begin again and be forgiven – this makes us want to do anything for him. And this is what happened to St. Paul. Much was forgiven him, and so he poured himself out for Christ.
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One year I traveled the path of St. Paul with seminarians. From Antioch to Tarsus. Through Galatia, Pisidia, and Colossea; to Miletus, Troas, Philipi, Athens and Corinth and to Rome where Paul was martyred. This is rugged travel. We did it by car on good roads, St. Paul did it 2000 years ago! Traveling to bring the gospel up steep cliffs, through rain, cold, and dangers.
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St. Paul did this for Christ, because of gratitude. Because he had been forgiven so much. St. Paul says: 3 times I was whipped, once I was stoned, 3 times shipwrecked. Sleepless nights, hunger and thirst and constant anxiety for the Lord’s Church. Here is a man who had much to make up for, but because of God’s mercy, he went to the ends of the earth.
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Jesus once said, he who is forgiven much, loves much. We therefore should love Him with all our heart, because Lord knows, we have been forgiven much.

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