From Saul to Saint Paul
Saint Paul, whose Feast Day is celebrated today, serves as the perfect example of a person who turned away from sin and turned toward God. Before his astounding conversion, Saint Paul was known as Saul. As Saul, he participated in the stoning (and killing) of Saint Stephen, our first Martyr of the Christian faith. Saint Paul is well known as originally starting out as a persecutor of the early Christians, as he was a zealot for the Jewish faith.
In his efforts to remain true to the Jewish faith, Saul departed Jerusalem for Damascus, in search of men and women who had sworn allegiance to Jesus. Saul wanted to bring them back to Jerusalem in chains (Acts 9:1). However, Jesus had other designs in mind for Saul. As Saul was nearing Damascus, a blinding light caused him to fall to the ground. At that moment, he heard Jesus say, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? (Saul) said, ‘who are you sir?’ The reply came, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting’” (Acts 9:4-5). Saul was literally flabbergasted at this vision/awareness of Jesus. He came to believe in Jesus and all of Jesus’ teachings. From that time on, he did what the Lord asked of him. He became a witness for Christ. He turned away from his old ways; even changed his name to Paul to signify the change. Through his writings and teachings, he became the most prolific writer of the Good News.
What can we learn from Saint Paul?
We can learn much! For starters, Jesus can do wonders even with the most despicable sinners. If Jesus can change Saul/Paul’s heart, think of what he can do with you and me, if only we give our permission through the exercise of free will, just as Saint Paul did. We can also learn what Saint Paul learned; that Jesus is the Way, and that Way is paved with virtue. When we turn away from sin, we naturally turn toward God, who is ready to grace us with virtue. The more virtuous we become, the more Christ-like we become; being in Christ’s presence is a great place to be!
Saint Paul, the Apostle, pray for us, that we too, may have a conversion of heart, turn toward God, and grow in virtue. – Amen!