25 Jan 2018: Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul


Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul

Reading 1: Acts 22: 3-16; Gospel: Mk. 16-15-18

The first reading narrates at length the Christic experience of Saul and further elucidates how he came to believe in Jesus Christ. Though the reading does not cite an explicit confession of faith in Jesus, the incident of Paul regaining his sight symbolically demonstrates his conversion from a persecutor of the believer to a believer worth emulating!

The conversion narrative of Paul in Acts Chapter 22 cites Christ’s apparition as a great light that flashed from the sky – so bright, that it completely blinded Saul. I beg you, however, not to concede to the literal meaning of the verse (11). Before you jump to conclusions that seem very evident, I implore you to reconsider verse 9, “then men who were with me saw the light…” If the bright light was the sole reason for Saul’s blindness, then why were his companions not affected at all? Verse 11 goes on to say that the blind Saul was led by the hand all the way to Damascus by his companions!

Probably, it was the luminous apparition of Christ the Light that revealed to Saul how blind he was to the Truth. If Saul’s blindness implied how far he was from being a believer of the Just One, then the regaining of his sight serves as a symbolic imagery of how Paul became a believer.

The Gospel of the day would enlighten us more about it. Jesus, before he ascended into Heaven, hands over his mandate to the Eleven, “Go out to the whole world and proclaim the Good News to all creation.” “Signs like these,” says Jesus, “will accompany those who have believed: in my name they will cast out demons… speak new languages… lay their hands on the sick, and they will be healed.” Hope you noticed Jesus saying that the signs enumerated above, will accompany those who have believed, not just the Eleven. All of us know that Pauline ministry was accompanied by all these signs and much more. Going back to the conversion of St. Paul, his mission among the Gentiles was not entrusted during the apparition; he was only instructed to proceed to Damascus where he would be told what he was destined to do. Only after he regained his sight… only after he became a believer, did he receive his mandate through a certain Ananias.

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