(Homily for January 25, 2017. Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul).
Bible Study: Acts 22, 3 to 16 and Mark 16, 15 to 18.
Today we celebrate the fact that God looked around all the men living in the world and decided to give a second chance to the very man who was all out to destroy Christianity. The same man who went about from house to house dragging Christians to jail, the same man who supervised the stoning of the first Christian martyr, Stephen, the same man whose zeal for the destruction of Christians would put him on a missionary journey with letter of permission, became the greatest missionary to promote the Christian Faith. That is God for you.
The beauty of St. Paul’s conversion was that the moment he rose from his feet, he never went back to his former ways. From that day, he saw himself as a completely different person. According to St. Peter, if we repent, there should be no going back otherwise, we become worse for it. 2nd Peter 2, 20 to 22 states: “For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overpowered, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than, after knowing it, to turn back from the holy commandment that was passed on to them. It has happened to them according to the true proverb, “The dog turns back to its own vomit,” and, “The sow is washed only to wallow in the mud.”
May we never return to our vomits in Jesus Name! As some people would say, no matter how you wash a pig, it will look for mud again. My thinking is that the kind of washing a pig requires is not the washing of the outer skin but the washing of the heart, the washing of that which makes the pig love mud. This is what true repentance means. It means changing your heart, changing the things that give you joy, changing the things you love and desire even in secret. Repentance is changing the things that make you love to dance in the mud, changing your belief in yourself, it is telling yourself that you can do without sin, that you will not die if you let go of those past behaviours.
When Saul fell to the ground, he heard the voice of Christ saying: “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” Let us always remember that when we face persecution for the sake of our faith, Jesus Christ himself shares in our pain. We do not even need to cry because Jesus himself feels our sorrow. When we are dragged off, lied upon, insulted or given names, it is Jesus himself who is dragged, it is Jesus who is insulted. And he has said to us, “If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household! So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known.” Matthew 10, 25 to 26.
On the other hand, just as Jesus feels our pain when we are persecuted, he also feels it when we who carry his name on our lips disappoint him by sin. He is always with us! We can never hide anything from him. Conscious of his presence in us, we would not only stay away from sin, we would make use of His Power working through us. As Jesus told us in today’s Gospel passage, “And these signs will accompany those who believe: by using my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes in their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.” Mark 16, 17 to 18.
As far as you repent today, your past does not matter anymore. Once you drop the old ways, do not go back again. Invite Jesus into your heart and believe in his presence with you always, believe you have the power to overcome sin, the power even to raise back to life those aspects that were dead as a result of bad habits.
Let us Pray: Lord Jesus, give me the grace of total repentance today. Amen.
Be Happy. Live Positive. Have Faith. It is well with you. God bless you.