Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Deacon Keith Fournier

4/19/2013 (1 year ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The man who had once persecuted the Way, became the Apostle who walked with Jesus along that Way - and invited so many others to do the same.

Before his conversion, Saul was complicit in the martyrdom of the first deacon and of the Church, Stephen. What was his response afterward? He became even more virulent. He breathed 'murderous threats' against the believers and sought to bring them back in chains. He set off on a journey to Damascus in hot pursuit. But, the Risen Lord had other plans for Saul.

The conversion of St Paul

The conversion of St Paul

Highlights

By Deacon Keith Fournier

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

4/19/2013 (1 year ago)

Published in Living Faith

Keywords: St. Paul, Damascus, conversion, Apostle Paul, Church, Body of Christ, The Way, persecution, Deacon Keith Fournier


CHESAPEAKE, VA (Catholic Online) - The first reading at Mass (Acts 9:1-20) was the account of the conversion of the rabbi named Saul. He was one of the most passionate among the growing number of those who persecuted the early followers of Jesus Christ.

Before his conversion, Saul was complicit in the martyrdom of the first deacon and of the Church, Stephen. What was his response afterward? He became even more virulent. He breathed 'murderous threats' against the believers and sought to bring them back in chains. He set off on a journey to Damascus in hot pursuit. But, the Risen Lord had other plans for Saul.

"On his journey, as he was nearing Damascus, a light from the sky suddenly flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?" He said, "Who are you, sir?" The reply came, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting." 

Saul heard Jesus ask him that probing question which changed his life, "Why do you persecute me?" As far as we can tell through either Biblical or historic evidence, Saul had never even met Jesus, at least during His earthly ministry. Yet, because Jesus the Head is inseparably joined to His Church, he was being persecuted by Saul when the disciples were being persecuted by Saul. They were members of His Body.

In this encounter, Saul became a witness to the Resurrection, a prerequisite to being an apostle. This experience opened up for him a life filled with responding to the continual invitations of Jesus Christ. It became the framework for continuing conversion and the driving force behind his apostolic mission to spread the Gospel and plant the Church throughout the known world. The man who had once persecuted the Way, became the Apostle who walked with Jesus along that Way - and invited so many others to do the same. 

Before they were called Christians in Antioch (Acts 11:26) they were often referred to as the Way. Paul, prior to his encounter with the Risen Lord on the Road to Damascus, speaks of having persecuted this Way (Acts 22: 3-16). The expression - the Way -  revealed a profoundly important aspect of the self understanding of the early Christians.

They lived the Christian faith as a new way of living, a new way of being human. They saw their lives as being lived in Christ - joined to Jesus, and with one another, for the sake of the world. Their Christianity was not about 'me and Jesus' but 'me in Jesus'. They knew they that as members of His Body they were called to continue his ongoing work.

Jesus is still identified with His Church. He is the Head and we are the Body. Our own ongoing conversion should involve ongoing conversion to the truth about the Church. The early fathers of the Church would have found the notion that one could be a Christian without being a member of the Church incomprehensible.

Here are but three of a myriad of oft quoted tests confirming this identification between belonging to Jesus and belonging to His Church: Let us love the Lord our God; let us love His Church. Let us love Him as our Father and her as our mother.(St. Augustine)

No one can have God as his Father who does not have the Church as his Mother. (St. Cyprian) For where the Church is, there the Spirit of God is also; and where the Spirit of God is, there the Church is, and all grace. And the Spirit is truth"   (St. Irenaeus of Lyons)

Have we experienced this identification with the Church? Do we really think we live in the Church and go into the world? Is this experience supposed to only be the experience of the mystics? Is it just the talk of the Saints and Fathers? Or, is it supposed to be the truly common experience of every Christian? I believe it is supposed to be the common experience of all who bear the name Christian.

The Church is not some "thing" outside of us, which we try to fix or have our "issues" with. Upon our Baptism, the Church becomes our home, our mother, the place in which we now live our lives in Christ. That is not to say we do not sometimes have struggles with our mother. However, she always remains our mother.

This kind of ecclesial identification can become the pervading reality of our lives.  To perceive, receive and to live this reality requires a continuing and dynamic conversion. We are sons and daughters of the Church. In living our lives in her we now carry forward in time the continuing redemptive mission of Jesus Christ who her Head.

The early Church Fathers often spoke of the Church as the world reconciled. In the Eastern Christian tradition, Catholic and Orthodox, we find a deep understanding of  the mission of the Church, and our place in it, as participating in the ongoing re-creation of the world in Christ.

In its treatment of the mystery of the Church, the Catechism of the Catholic Church states: "To reunite all his children, scattered and led astray by sin, the Father willed to call the whole of humanity together into his Son's Church. The Church is the place where humanity must rediscover its unity and salvation."

"The Church is "the world reconciled." She is that bark which "in the full sail of the Lord's cross, by the breath of the Holy Spirit, navigates safely in this world." According to another image dear to the Church Fathers, she is prefigured by Noah's ark, which alone saves from the flood." (#845)

Of course, until the Lord returns, the Church is still composed of human members and thus, she is both human and divine. She is often wounded and in need of healing. However, she still offers the means through which we participate in the very life of God. To her has been entrusted the Sacraments and the Word, along with the gift of a teaching office upon which we can depend. 

The Church is our life, because we now live in Christ, from whose wounded side she was birthed at the tree of Calvary. Through faith we are invited into a deeper conversion which will enable us to grasp this truth.Prayer is the path to a fuller encounter with the Risen Lord. In that encounter we change.

Like St Paul, this kind of real, tangible experience of living in the heart of the Church for the sake of the world can become our lived, daily experience.  For that to happen, we need, above all else, to pray. Let's ask the Risen Lord who spoke to Saul to open our own eyes to see Him - and our ears to hear His voice. St. Paul's Conversion can become our own. Jesus and the Church Are Inseparable

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for October 2014
Peace:
That the Lord may grant peace to those parts of the world most battered by war and violence.
World Mission Day: That World Mission Day may rekindle in every believer zeal for carrying the Gospel into all the world.



Comments


More Living Faith

Pope Paul VI closer to sainthood with beatification by Pope Francis Watch

Image of Pope Paul VI cleaned house, abolishing the pontifical court and simplifying the Curia, the Vatican's administrative arm. Pope Francis is continuing his predecessor's effort to reform to this day.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis cleared the process for sainthood for Pope Paul VI after his beatification over the weekend. Pope Paul VI led the Catholic Church through internal reform during a tumultuous time of social and political change before his death in 1978. LOS ANGELES, ... continue reading


We Need Courageous Bishops: Ignatius of Antioch is a Model Watch

Image of Ignatius of Antioch - I know what is to my advantage. At last I am becoming his disciple. May nothing entice me till I happily make my way to Jesus Christ! Fire, cross, struggles with wild beasts, wrenching of bones, mangling of limbs-let them come to me, provided only I make my way to Jesus Christ. I would rather die and come to Jesus Christ than be king over the entire earth. Him I seek who died for us; him I love who rose again because of us.

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

We need Bishops like Ignatius in this new missionary age of the Church. There is a literal assault on marriage and the family in much of the West. Yet, what the Church has to offer on the truth about marriage and the family paves the path to a future of true ... continue reading


Need a chapel? Pope Francis to rent Sistine Chapel for charity Watch

Image of Pope Francis is renting out the Sistine Chapel for charity.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis is renting out the Sistine Chapel for charity. The decision marks the first time that the chapel has ever been rented out for charity. It will be used for a private concert hosted by Porsche. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The Vatican has announced ... continue reading


On World Food Day, a reminder of Pope Francis' mission for the Church Watch

Image of It's time to ensure that everybody has enough.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Today is World Food Day and we are all called to do what we can to feed others. This year's World Food Day falls during Pope Francis' 'Week of Action' where all Catholics are called to pray and act to feed the world's hungry. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Today, ... continue reading


Pope Francis: The only thing that counts for Jesus is 'faith working through love' Watch

Image of Pope Francis related former Jesuit leader Father Arrupe's lesson in humility in his recent talk.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis reiterated in his morning homily that faith is not about appearances and superficially following Church laws. The Pontiff said that God wants to see a faith that inspires action and is "working in charity" and making sacrifices for others. LOS ... continue reading


A Meditation on the Sacred Heart of Jesus: My Heart to Gods Heart Watch

Image of

By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

O Sacred Heart of Jesus, O burning furnace of divine Love, you are the symbol and summary of the whole mystery of our Redemption.  O mystery of mysteries, an infinite Love which no vessel can contain emptied itself into a finite human vessel of love-and so became ... continue reading


The next big thing for the Catholic Church is underway -- but you might not have heard about it... Watch

Image of The Church is closing on its goal to eradicate world hunger.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

"Raise a voice for the hungry," Pope Francis tweeted in support of his 'Week of Action' to fight world hunger. From October 12-18, the 'Week of Action' is intended to bring awareness to Catholics about world hunger and to motivate them to actually do something about ... continue reading


Archbishop explains why Church will never condone homosexual behavior and that the West is pushing a gay agenda Watch

Image of Archbishop Zbigevs Stankevis.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Homosexual relationships destroy "the identity of the man and the identity of the woman," according to a Catholic Archbishop attending the Vatican's Synod of the Bishops. Archbishop Zbigevs Stankevis, has accused the U.S. and other countries of trying to promote a ... continue reading


Pope Francis says that if law 'doesn't get us closer to Jesus Christ, it is dead' Watch

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

In what appears to be a rebuke to legalism within the church, Pope Francis declared in his morning homily that if laws do not lead people to Christ then they are obsolete. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The scholars of the law in Jesus's day, Pope Francis ... continue reading


Monday, October 13 - Homily: Columbus Day Watch

Image of Today we celebrate the Mass for Evangelization of Peoples. Are you doing your part to bring the one, true Faith to all peoples?

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Today we celebrate the Mass for Evangelization of Peoples. Are you doing your part to bring the one, true Faith to all peoples? continue reading


All Living Faith News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Ephesians 2:12-22
12 do not forget, I say, that you were at that time ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 85:9-10, 11-12, 13-14
9 His saving help is near for those who fear him, his ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 12:35-38
35 'See that you have your belts done up and your ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for October 21st, 2014 Image

St. Hilarion
October 21: Abbot and disciple of St. Anthony the Great, companion of St. ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter