Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul, Apostle
Daily Scripture Analysis

Daily Gospel

Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul, Apostle

The Conversion of St. Paul

Readings: Acts 22:3-16; Mc 16:15-18.

1/ First Reading: RSV Acts 22:3 "I am a Jew, born at Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, educated according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God as you all are this day. 4 I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering to prison both men and women, 5 as the high priest and the whole council of elders bear me witness. From them I received letters to the brethren, and I journeyed to Damascus to take those also who were there and bring them in bonds to Jerusalem to be punished. 6 "As I made my journey and drew near to Damascus, about noon a great light from heaven suddenly shone about me. 7 And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, `Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?' 8 And I answered, `Who are you, Lord?' And he said to me, `I am Jesus of Nazareth whom you are persecuting.' 9 Now those who were with me saw the light but did not hear the voice of the one who was speaking to me. 10 And I said, `What shall I do, Lord?' And the Lord said to me, `Rise, and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all that is appointed for you to do.' 11 And when I could not see because of the brightness of that light, I was led by the hand by those who were with me, and came into Damascus. 12 "And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, well spoken of by all the Jews who lived there, 13 came to me, and standing by me said to me, `Brother Saul, receive your sight.' And in that very hour I received my sight and saw him. 14 And he said, `The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will, to see the Just One and to hear a voice from his mouth; 15 for you will be a witness for him to all men of what you have seen and heard. 16 And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on his name.'

2/ Gospel: RSV Mark 16:15 And he said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation. 16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover."


Written by: Fr. Anthony Tien M. Dinh, O.P. 

I. THEME: St. Paul’s conversion showed the power of God’s grace.

           

            There were many conversions in the history of humankind; some were recorded such as the conversions of St. Peter, St. Matthew, St. Mary Magdalene, St. Augustine... ; many weren’t reported as of the majotity of people; but only one conversion is celebrated by the Church, that is St. Paul’s conversion. His conversion was reported at least three times in the Acts (9:1-19; 22:3-16; 26:12-18), and many times were implied by Paul himself in his Letters.

            The first reading was regarded as St. Paul’s most complete confession. In this report, one can clearly see the main cause of his conversion was God’s grace. God completely changed his way of thinking and manner of acting by letting him be fallen from his horse and be blind. He also let him hear Christ’s voice to show that Christ is still living. He commanded him to meet a certain man named Hananiah in order to be healed and received his mission of preaching the Good News for the Gentiles. In the Gospel, though Paul’s name wasn’t listed with the Twelve apostles, he was also considered as an apostle by the Church because he saw the Resurrected Christ and was commissioned by him to preach the Good News to the Gentiles.

II. ANALYSIS:

1/ Reading I: St. Paul’s conversion showed the power of God’s grace.

1.1/ Paul’s life before his conversion: Paul was a Jew in diaspora, born and grew up in Tarsus, Cilicia province, Asia Minor country (now is Turkey). He was taught by Gamaliel to strictly keep the Law and the tradition. He eagerly served God as a devout Jew. Gamaliel was a well-known Pharisees, also a scribe, and a member of the Sandherin Council. He advised the Council to be careful when they were judging Peter and other (cf. Acts 5:34-40).

            Paul persecuted Christ’s new religion, wasn’t hesitated to kill those who followed this new way of life as he stated: “I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering to prison both men and women, as the high priest and the whole council of elders bear me witness. From them I received letters to the brethren, and I journeyed to Damascus to take those also who were there and bring them in bonds to Jerusalem to be punished.”

            An important event was occurred to Paul on his way to Damascus to persecute Christians. This event completely changed his life, as he reported: "As I made my journey and drew near to Damascus, about noon a great light from heaven suddenly shone about me. And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, `Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?' And I answered, `Who are you, Lord?' And he said to me, `I am Jesus of Nazareth whom you are persecuting.' Now those who were with me saw the light but did not hear the voice of the one who was speaking to me. And I said, `What shall I do, Lord?' And the Lord said to me, `Rise, and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all that is appointed for you to do.'”

1.2/ Paul’s life after his conversion: A series of events happened after his falling on the way to Damascus.

            (1) Paul was blind: Paul could not see because of the brightness of that light, he was led by the hand by those who were with him, and they came into Damascus. Christ prepared for Paul to meet Hananiah, a devout Christian. He will tell Paul what God would like him to do.

            (2) Paul was seen again: When Hananiah saw Paul, he came to him and said: `Brother Saul, receive your sight.' And in that very hour he received his sight and saw Hananiah.

            (3) Paul was given a mission: Hananiah revealed to Paul God’s will: “The God of our fathers appointed you to know His will, to see the Just One and to hear a voice from his mouth;for you will be a witness for Him to all men of what you have seen and heard.”

            (4) Paul was baptized: Hananiah commanded Saul: “And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on his name.”

1.3/ The meaning of St. Paul’s conversion: There are many important points which Paul learned from this event, and they form the basis of his teachings later. Some of them are:

            (1) Christ has died, but resurrected, and is living to help and to protect his Christians. All people must believe in him and keep what he taught in order to receive salvation. The Law has no power to set people free from sins or to give salvation.

            (2) All are God’s grace, people didn’t do anything to merit God’s grace. God is the one who gives people grace, leads them to repentance, and saves them when they are still sinners. His life was an example: He was deserved to die or to be blind all of his life because he persecuted Christ’s Church; but God saved and gave him back his sight.

            (3) People must find out and do God’s will to be saved, to do the opposite is to “to kick against the goads” (Acts 26:14).

2/ Gospel: "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation.”

2.1/ Jesus gave his apostles the mission to preach the Gospel: He said to the apostles: “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation.He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.”

            When Jesus died and resurrected, he completed his mission of bringing salvation to humankind. Before he ascended to heaven, he gave the mission of preaching the Good News to attain salvation to his apostles, and commanded them to bring this Gospel to all who live in the world. To attain salvation, people need to believe in Christ and be baptized.

2.2/ Jesus gave his power to his apostles so people might believe in their preaching: Jesus promised to his apostles that these signs will accompany those who believe in his name:

            (1) They will cast out demons: For example, St. Paul expelled unclean spirit from a servant at Philippi (Acts 16:18).

            (2) They will speak in new tongues: The apostles spoke the languages of many nations on the Pentecost (Acts 2:1-11).

            (3) They will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them: St. Paul overcame many obstacles in his three missionary journeys, such as: he was led out from a prison by an angel during the night; he was stoned to death, but stood up and walked again; he overcame many wicked plans of the Jews.

            (4) They will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover: These were performed by many of Jesus’ apostles and disciples.

 

III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:                     

            - All are God’s grace. In His providence, we lack nothing which are necessary for our material life and for our journey on the way to eternal life.

            - Misunderstanding can be forgiven because it is human weakness; but we must ready to welcome God’s grace and the Holy Spirit’s guidance to come to the truth.

            - We must fulfill our prophetic duty because we were commissioned by Christ in Baptism. We must be his witnesses through preaching and living the Gospel.

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