I need to admit to you that I was thinking about this Gospel commentary on January 6, the Feast of the Epiphany. The month of January opens with the wise men making their way to the manger to offer the new-born King gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Epiphany, sadly for most of us, is the signal that the crèche and Christmas decorations can now be put away for the year.
The Wise Men from the east, however, in the words of Benedict XVI, “mark a new beginning.” In them, we find “the journeying of humanity toward Christ.” They initiate a human procession that continues throughout history. What I want to draw attention to in these words is Pope Benedict’s sense of an ongoing journeying that is a part of humanity’s reality on our pilgrimage to the Kingdom.
Today, near the end of the month of January, we celebrate the “conversion” of St Paul. Jesus clearly comes to meet Paul on the road to Damascus. He calls him to a mission to proclaim his name to the Gentiles, to be a part of this ongoing procession of humanity seeking Christ and to play a part in proclaiming Christ to humanity across the ages. We can easily make the mistake of viewing the Feast of the Epiphany as a commemoration of something three wise men did two millennia ago, playing their part in the Christmas narrative, an act in the drama that Christmas plays love to include. But we can’t get away with that on this celebration of the Conversion of St. Paul.
The Feast of the Conversion of the apostle Paul, he shows us that we need to be actively a part in this journeying of humanity today. In what way?
- Like Paul, we are each pursued by Christ because he has ordained for each of us a mission in the narrative of salvation. We are called for ourselves, but also for the others.
- The three Wise Men from the east went back home and probably thought about the tiny Child they had worshipped for the rest of their lives. Paul’s encounter with Christ, however, shows us that our own encounter with Christ is part of a longer story of personal transformation that takes place through the gift of the sacraments, the Christian community, transformation of life, and mission to others in the name of Christ. It has a beginning and a goal, and every day is a step toward, in the words of Paul, “becoming Christ.”
- We can never, ever be grateful enough for the unmerited gift of our Baptism. Paul remained in darkness and blindness until he was baptized by Ananias. The moment of his baptism Paul received his sight, but Paul also was admitted into the community of those he had sought to destroy. Our call, our mission, is never carried out alone as if we were some kind of “lone ranger.” We are always members of a community, in communion with others, and, as Paul would write, members of the Body of Christ.
So, on this feast of the Conversion of St. Paul take a moment to reflect on how Jesus sees you with a specific mission in this humanity on a pilgrimage to the Father across the centuries. And, as Paul teaches us, may each day of this year may you be more and more filled with Jesus, until you are like him in every way.
Kathryn James Hermes, FSP, is the author of the newly released title: Reclaim Regret: How God Heals Life’s Disappointments, by Pauline Books and Media. An author and spiritual mentor, she offers spiritual accompaniment for the contemporary Christian’s journey towards spiritual growth and inner healing. She is the director of My Sisters, where people can find spiritual accompaniment from the Daughters of St. Paul on their journey.
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