The account of St. Paul’s conversion which we read in the Acts of the Apostles tells the story as if Paul was changed in an instant. While it makes for a dramatic story, change rarely comes about in that fashion. Change takes time. Our bodies change slowly as we get older. Our minds become less agile with the passing of time. The same can be said of our souls. We gradually change, or convert, in our relationship with God.
St. Paul’s account of his conversion in the Letter to the Galatians seems to indicate that his conversion was also a slow process. He spent three years in Arabia and Damascus before going to confer with the apostles. He realized that he needed their approval before he could begin preaching even though he was convinced that God had commissioned him. Apostolic tradition and approbation was already in place in the Christian community.
Given human nature, change is not only from above, change has to be a gradual – even slow – matter accomplished by little steps, new starts, and a lot of plodding effort. Evidence in St. Paul’s letters shows that he had his dark moments later on. We who participate frequently in the Eucharist can easily experience discouragement over the seeming lack of dramatic change in ourselves. Change may be going on, very likely is going on, if we are daily open to the influence and power of God in Christ, in the Word, and in the Eucharist.
Like Mary in today’s Gospel passage, we choose the better part in our relationship with Jesus and look for change to slowly turn us to God’s will in our lives.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator