By Fr. Kevin Magner
Today the Church celebrates the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. It is, as far as I know, the only feast day in the Church’s calendar that celebrates a person’s conversion to the Faith. Even though there have been countless people who have converted to Christianity, St. Paul’s conversion stands out from the rest. In fact, this event is so important that it is mentioned three times in the Acts of the Apostles: Acts 9:1-22, Acts 22:1-21, and Acts 26:1-23.
The story of Paul’s conversion is usually described as Paul getting knocked off his high horse as he made his way to Damascus. (Despite the many artistic depictions of Paul’s conversion, no horse is mentioned in the scriptures.) The real significance of this event is that it brought about a huge change, not only in the life of Paul himself, but also in the life of Christianity.
Paul’s conversion shows us that God can use anyone to reveal His glory, even someone like Paul who was previously persecuting Christians. Paul was a zealot who truly believed he was doing the right thing by rounding up these “heretics” who were followers of the Way. After Jesus revealed Himself to Paul this same zealousness was put to use in proclaiming the truth of Jesus as the Son of God. Paul’s conversion marked a turning point in Christianity as Paul became the “Apostle to the Gentiles”, as he called himself. (Rom. 11:13) Paul’s preaching of salvation through Jesus Christ now went beyond the realm of Judaism to all the peoples of the world.
We can take two lessons from today’s feast day. The first is that no person is beyond redemption. God can take even the most hard-hearted sinner and bring about a conversion through His grace.
The second is that the call to conversion is part of every Christian’s life. Even though we all may wish to have a life-changing conversion moment like Paul, most of us follow the slow path of conversion every day. But that is how it should be. Each and every day we should be reminded that we are choosing the Way of Jesus Christ in everything we do. Every day we are called to leave our old way of life behind and choose to start a new way of life that is centered in the Lord.