Sacrifice, which is the passion of great souls, has never been the law of societies. – Henri Frederic Amiel (1821 –1881: was a Swiss moral philosopher, poet, and critic.)
Scripture Text: (ACTS 22:3-16)
Paul addressed the people in these words:
"I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia,
but brought up in this city.
At the feet of Gamaliel I was educated strictly in our ancestral law
and was zealous for God, just as all of you are today.
I persecuted this Way to death,
binding both men and women and delivering them to prison.
Even the high priest and the whole council of elders
can testify on my behalf.
For from them I even received letters to the brothers
and set out for Damascus to bring back to Jerusalem
in chains for punishment those there as well.
"On that journey as I drew near to Damascus,
about noon a great light from the sky suddenly shone around me.
I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me,
'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?'
I replied, 'Who are you, sir?'
And he said to me,
'I am Jesus the Nazorean whom you are persecuting.'
My companions saw the light
but did not hear the voice of the one who spoke to me.
I asked, 'What shall I do, sir?'
The Lord answered me, 'Get up and go into Damascus,
and there you will be told about everything
appointed for you to do.'
Since I could see nothing because of the brightness of that light,
I was led by hand by my companions and entered Damascus.
"A certain Ananias, a devout observer of the law,
and highly spoken of by all the Jews who lived there,
came to me and stood there and said,
'Saul, my brother, regain your sight.'
And at that very moment I regained my sight and saw him.
Then he said,
'The God of our ancestors designated you to know his will,
to see the Righteous One, and to hear the sound of his voice;
for you will be his witness before all
to what you have seen and heard.
Now, why delay?
Get up and have yourself baptized and your sins washed away,
calling upon his name.'"
The Conversion of St. Paul is such an important celebration of the Church year that it has its own proper readings. Today, then, we hear of St. Paul’s conversion through the lens of his Jewish faith being fulfilled in Christ.
One way of describing St. Paul’s conversion is from that of Judaism to Christianity. But we could expand on this by saying that Paul’s conversion was from one understanding of sacrifice to another. Saul was not a Levite, but his concept of sacrifice as a faithful Jew would have been based on temple sacrifices.
Christian sacrifice, however, is not of exterior things, but of what is most interior and personal. It’s a sacrifice not of animals, but of one’s very self: body, soul and spirit.
Few saints have more than one feast day during the year, but St. Paul has three (or four if you live in Malta). It’s not just because Saint Paul wrote about two-thirds of the epistles in the New Testament that the Church so honors him, but primarily because of the sacrifice he bore out of fidelity to the call that God gave him.