Homily for Tuesday, January 25, Feast of the Conversion of St Paul
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St Paul is one of the few saints who has more than one celebration in the Roman Catholic liturgical calendar. What makes St Paul so special? He was not one of the original twelve Apostles. There have been missionary saints since St Paul who have probably traveled more miles – Saint Francis Xavier and Mother Cabrini, for instance – and with the new means of communication, people like Mother Angelica and Fulton Sheen have reached many more people than St Paul every could.
Nevertheless, St Paul is truly special. He was chosen by Christ in a unique way to be a true Apostle, even if not one of the twelve who accompanied Jesus in his life on earth. He is especially important because he played a key role in helping the other Apostles understand and implement God’s plan that the Gospel be preached actively to everyone, not just to the Jews – and that Christians, of Hebrew and Gentile origin alike, did not have to follow all the detailed laws of the Old Covenant. He is also a key figure because his divinely inspired letters are the earliest writings of the New Testament, of which they are a significant portion. They are a treasure-trove of theological richness and insights into the early Church’s beliefs and practices.
Today we admire these things about St Paul, and we give thanks to God for Paul’s amazing contributions to establishing and expanding the Church. Certainly, we cannot imitate him as an inspired author or as the first Apostle to the Gentiles. However, there are things about St Paul which we can imitate, and one in particular that I’d like to mention, because it’s what we are celebrating in particular today. When St Paul (still called Saul at that time) had his encounter with Jesus, as we heard in the first reading today, he had the humility to recognize that he had been wrong to persecute Christians until then, and he dedicated himself whole-heartedly to serving Christ from then on. We encounter the Lord every time we receive Him in the Eucharist. Let us ask Him to help us more and more to know the truth about His will in our lives. May He grant us the generosity to follow Him with gratitude and enthusiasm, that we may serve Him faithfully like St Paul wherever and however we serve Him best.