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PAUL – AN INSTRUMENT OF GOD

Today’s first Mass reading is Acts 9:1-20.  It recounts the dramatic story of Paul’s conversion.  Several things struck me in this reading.  First of all, Jesus equates persecution of Christians with persecuting him.  (verse 4)  So Jesus himself is being persecuted in the world today in various places by various people, even here in the U.S.  It’s a pretty sad state of affairs when the President has to sign an executive order prohibiting the persecution of Christians.  It’s basically like issuing an executive order that people have to abide by first amendment of the Constitution.

The second thing that struck me was how sudden and dramatic Paul’s conversion was.  Within a few days Paul went from persecuting Jesus to proclaiming him as the Son of God in the synagogues.  He didn’t hold back.  He didn’t worry about being politically correct.  He knew the truth and he was going to proclaim it no matter what.  We need people like that in the world.  I think the closest example in my lifetime is Billy Graham.

Thirdly, I think the reading helps us to think about our own conversion stories.  We come to the Lord in different ways.  For some people it’s sudden and dramatic.  For others it’s more gradual.  Our testimony should basically answer three questions:  1. What was my life like before I met Jesus?  2.  How did I meet Jesus?  3.  What has my life been like since I met Jesus?  Can you answer those questions?  If so, you have a conversion testimony.  For me there have been two major turning points in my life.  First I was born again on January 29, 1976.  Second, I was baptized in the Holy Spirit in 1983.  My life changed substantially after each of these experiences.

Finally, the reading said that Paul was a chosen instrument or vessel of God to carry the name of Jesus to Gentiles and kings as well as the Jewish people.  I think as Christians we’re all chosen vessels of God.  We’re all called, in some way, to carry the name of Jesus to someone.   God help us to discern what we’re called to do and to have the faith and courage to do it.

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