Saturday, January 24, 2009

A Taste of Easter

(Conversion of Paul, Apostle)

This feast of the Conversion of Paul is like a little bit of Easter that intrudes upon us in the middle of winter. It’s like a taste of Easter because today is about the Resurrection of the Lord, and the power of his Risen Presence to re-form and trans-form human lives, indeed to recreate the world anew. In this case we are talking about the transformation of one human life, that of the devout Jew Saul of Tarsus who becomes for us St. Paul the Apostle. His conversion is a big deal for us Christians; the writings of St. Paul make up almost a fifth of our specifically Christian Scriptures, commonly called the New Testament. In fact, if we add those books written by Paul’s co-workers and disciples, we’re up to about a quarter of the New Testament. Paul himself is the second most represented author in the New Testament, after St. Luke.

Because of all this, Paul’s influence upon us and our understanding of the faith is almost incalculable. As a preacher he is adamant that the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus Christ have forever changed the situation of the human person in the world. As a founder of churches he has left us with a missionary model and legacy employed by Christians to this day. And all this because of one encounter with Jesus Christ risen from the dead, while on his way to Damascus.

Now here’s the kicker, brothers and sisters. The Resurrection is a matter of eternity; the Lord risen from the dead enters into his eternal existence at the right hand of the Father. Now notice what this means for us: the Resurrection is just as much a matter of right now as it was on that first Easter morning, and as it was for Paul when his journey was interrupted by grace. This means that the experience of the Resurrection is available to us. Indeed, that is the deepest meaning of our gathering here for the holy Eucharist. Drawn together by the Holy Spirit, we are lifted up and made into the Body of Christ risen from the dead. His risen Presence is here in the Word we hear and in the Holy Communion we share.

To experience the Resurrection is to avail ourselves of the opportunity for transformation, to have our lives reformed and renovated by the presence of Christ, who is God united to our humanity. Listen to how St. Mark describes the transformation of those who encounter and believe in Christ: They will drive out demons and they will speak new languages. And so it can be for us. With our hearts renovated and our thoughts transformed in Christ, we will be empowered to drive from ourselves the demons of selfishness, despair, anxiety, and depression. And then we will be free to drive from our society the demons of violence, poverty, and the ‘culture of death.’ We will speak new languages. Instead of the tired excuses for sin and the toleration of structures of injustice in our society, we will be empowered to speak the word of peace and of God’s desire for the flourishing and salvation of all people. The power flowing from Christ’s Resurrection can do this for us, as it does for Paul. Let us pray for our conversion, for our transformation in Christ, that we too might become the missionaries God desires to send for the renewal of the world.

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