The Conversion of St Paul
The Mall in Washington is about 2 miles long. It is a wide strip of green grass that cuts right through the city. At one end of the Mall is the Lincoln Memorial, in the middle of the Mall is the Washington Monument and at the other end of the Mall is the Capitol building where the government of the United States meets. The Mall is very big. It is beautiful and very impressive. Just over forty years ago at the Lincoln Memorial Martin Luther King Jnr gave his famous ‘I have a dream’ speech. His dream as we all know was that the segregation and victimisation of African American people would end in America. His was a simple dream that his children could play with a white mans children – that they would be respected as equals. Then just forty years later at the other end of the Mall on the steps of the Capitol building an African American man was sworn in as the President of the United States. The two mile journey from one end of the Mall to the other in a sense was the journey of an amazing conversion for a nation. The American nation converted from being a nation blighted by racism to a nation where about 80% of its people approve of it first African American President. Many people said that it would or could never happen but it did.
Conversion can happen. People can change. Opinions can change. Things can get better. What is needed for change is commitment and faith. In the midst of all the doom and gloom that surrounds us at the moment no matter how the new President of America works out his election was evidence that commitment and faith works. It was an election where optimism and hope won over pessimism and despair.
St Paul, whose conversion we celebrate today was a bad man. He was self righteous and he caused great pain and suffering to those who he disagreed with. People were afraid of him. Yet God chose him to bring the Good News of Jesus to the Gentiles – to those who were not the chosen people – to everybody in the world no matter what their creed or colour. Paul’s conversion enabled him to see in a new way – with the eyes of Jesus. Seeing in this new way he had the courage and the confidence to leave his home and to leave his native land and to proclaim Jesus. He could do all this because he believed and he had unshakeable faith. Paul was committed to his new way of life and that commitment enabled him to endure terrible suffering in the name of Jesus.
Today in our time we need conversion. We need the gift of conversion. We need to see in a new way – in the way of Jesus for this time. I think that we as the Church need perhaps to be converted to hope. I think that there is a danger where we can continue to lose hope. We can fall into the trap of predicting a grim future for the Church. Then we sit back and wait for that grim future to arrive and then we can take some comfort in the fact that we weren’t out of touch because our prediction was right. If St Paul had adopted that attitude when the first persecution came he would have given up and just said his own private prayers. Then the faith would not have spread to all the countries that he brought it to. If African Americans had adopted that attitude then Martin Luther King’s dream would just have remained that – a dream and one of their own would never have walked up the mall from the Lincoln Memorial to the Capitol Building to be President.
We do not have the luxury to wallow in self pity about the reality of the Church today. We do not have the time to engage in negative discussions. Yes we need always to acknowledge and face reality but we need to do it with hope and confidence in Jesus. When we do that we will in our day take up that mantle of St Paul. We will be people of commitment and faith who believe the Good News and at the invitation of Jesus proclaim that Good News. When we do that yes like St Paul we may be laughed at – we may be ridiculed – we may have to suffer but the one thing that we may be sure of is that to those we proclaim the Good News to will never hear better news.
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17th October 2017 We Are All One with You
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20th June 2017 "Love is not loved."
25th April 2017 I Hope You Dance
21st March 2017 From Darkness to Dawn
27th October 2016 The Bright Field
27th June 2016 The Enemy Within
31st May 2016 The Little Way to The Almighty
25th January 2016 Love Immeasurable
11th November 2015 Letting Go
21st May 2015 The Gift of Loss
6th May 2015 Walls
24th November 2014 Leaning into Winter
24th October 2014 Crossing the Road
25th June 2014 Fetters of the Soul
30th April 2014 The Power of Gratitude
10th March 2014 The Darkling Thrush
11th February 2014 Spring
10th February 2014 Masks
3rd February 2014 Dancing in the Wind
21st January 2014 Chains of nostalgia
13th January 2014 Forgiving wrongs darker than death or night
7th January 2014 Singing out Loud
17th December 2013 CHRISTMAS FOUND
9th December 2013 Withering into the Truth
2nd December 2013 The Celtic Prayer Garden
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18th November 2013 NEARER GOD’S HEART
12th November 2013 Night
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25th May 2009 The Feast of the Ascension of the Lord
18th May 2009 Power of the real presence
7th May 2009 "Lessons I did not learn in School" - by Bill Gates
20th April 2009 JESUS RISES FROM THE DEAD
30th March 2009 The Long Walk to Freedom
23rd March 2009 Become a Friend
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2nd March 2009 Life - Giving Words
16th February 2009 Exclusion Policy
9th February 2009 Somewhere the Child
2nd February 2009 The Conversion of St Paul
12th January 2009 Thomas Merton, "Thoughts in Solitude"
22nd December 2008 A Christmas Parable by Louis Cassels
15th December 2008 Work – from In the heart of the Temple by Sr Joan Chittister
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10th November 2008 A Homily for The Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica – 9th November 2008
3rd November 2008 John O’Donohue taken from “Benedictus - A Book of Blessings”
27th October 2008 Charles Peguy 1873-1914, French poet and politician
20th October 2008 The following is an extract from a talk given by Bishop George Lungu of Chipata in Zambia in Africa, to the synod of Bishops being held in Rome this month.
13th October 2008 Excerpt from ‘A Door of Hope’ by Jean Vanier
6th October 2008 A Reflection on Matthew's Gospel 21:28-32
29th September 2008 The Daily Decalogue of Pope John XXIII