There are in truth three states of the converted: the beginning, the middle, and the perfection. In the beginning they experience the charms of sweetness; in the middle the contests of temptation; and in the end the fullness of perfection. - Pope St. Gregory the Great
Gospel text (Mk 16:15-18): Jesus showed himself to the Eleven and said to them, «Go out to the whole world and proclaim the Good News to all creation. The one who believes and is baptized will be saved; the one who refuses to believe will be condemned. Signs like these will accompany those who have believed: in my Name they will cast out demons and speak new languages; they will pick up snakes and, if they drink anything poisonous, they will be unharmed. They will lay their hands on the sick and they will be healed».
Today, the Church commemorates the conversion of St. Paul , apostle. The short fragment of the Gospel according to St. Mark contains part of the address on the mission bestowed to the apostles by Jesus, resurrected. His exhortation to go out to the whole world and proclaim the Good News includes the thesis that faith and baptism and necessary essentials for salvation: «The one who believes and is baptized will be saved; the one who refuses to believe will be condemned» (Mk 16:16). Furthermore, Christ guarantees that preachers will be given the faculty to work out miracles or prodigies which will support and confirm their missionary preaching (cf. Mk 17:18). The mission is big —«Go out to the whole world»—, but it will not be without the Lord's escort: «And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age» (Mt 28:20).
Today's collect, tells us: «O God, who, by the preaching of your apostle Paul, has caused the light of the Gospel to shine throughout the world: grant, we beseech you, that we, having his wonderful conversion in remembrance, may show forth our thankfulness to you for the same by following the holy doctrine which he taught». A gospel God has allowed us to know and that so many souls would desire to have: we have the responsibility to transmit this wonderful heritage to whatever extent we are able to.
St. Paul 's conversion is a great event: from persecuting Jesus' followers he converted into a servant and defender of the cause of Christ. Quite often, perhaps, we have also been “persecutors”: and, as St. Paul , we need to convert from “persecutors” into servants and defenders of Jesus Christ.
So we reflect:
1) By his conversion Paul advanced from being blind to seeing with the eyes of Christ. So we ask ourselves: as this new congress begins are there people and political beliefs whose goodness we are blind to? Can we see how we have exercised our ‘right to be wrong’ and now need to be converted to Jesus’ way of love and mercy?
2) By his conversion Paul revealed the Spirit’s power to change us, and through us, to transform the world. So we ask: despite our occasional blindness and stubbornness, how has the Spirit used us/me as chosen instruments to make Jesus known and to change our immediate community---home, workplace and school—for the better?
3) By his conversion Paul encourages us to proclaim the Gospel to every creature. As Jesus left his disciples telling them to “go into the world and proclaim the gospel…” So it is our turn. As Mother Teresa noted: “today Christian women and men have to carry our Lord to places he has not walked before…” Are you/we up to that challenge?
4) By his conversion from prosecutor to believer, Paul became our mentor and teacher in the Christian faith; so we reflect: are we open enough to ask ourselves if we are prepared to experience a conversion in those areas of faith, behavior or attitude that need to be refocused on the love and mercy of the Lord?
With the Virgin Mary, we should realize the Almighty has also noticed us and has chosen us to share and carry out the priestly and redeeming mission of his divine Son: Regina apostolorum, Queen of the apostles, pray for us!; give us courage to bear witness of our Christian faith in this world of ours."