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Acting Baptized

Homily for the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul

The link between the first reading and the Gospel for today’s feast is obviously the work baptism. The account of Paul’s conversion appears several times in the Christians Scriptures - three times in the Acts of the Apostles and also in the Letter to the Galatians and in the First Letter to the Corinthians. No matter who records the event of Paul’s conversion, it always ends in Paul being baptized.

The Gospel commission at the end of St. Mark’s Gospel asks us to be heralds of the Gospel. Faith in Jesus Christ comes through hearing the Gospel and finds its expression first in Baptism and then in acting “baptized.” I could have said, “acting as if I were baptized.” The expression “acting baptized” is a little clumsy. It does express, I think, what is really being asked of us. Through our actions, people should come to know us as persons who have come to faith in Jesus and who have been baptized. Though the story of St. Paul’s conversion is told over and over again in the Christians Scriptures, it is Paul’s actions after the event that convince us of his coming to faith.

I have always felt that there was a problem with the story of St. Paul’s conversion because it happens so quickly and definitively. My own experience of conversion, both in my life and in the lives of others, is that conversion is a much slower process – a lifelong process, if you will. Perhaps this is precisely why the sacred writers included the story so many different times. Although the event took place at a specific time and place in history, the process of coming to faith in Jesus and of acting on that faith fills the rest of St. Paul’s life. He and we are asked to live out the promises of our baptism each and every day.

Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator

Today’s feast brings to a close the Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity. This too is not a process that can be accomplished in a moment of history. Unity is a goal that we probably will not see in our lifetime. However, we can and must work for that day by living out the promises of our baptism and being heralds of the Gospel – the Gospel that heals divisions of any kind.

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