Today we celebrate the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, one of few (if not only) feasts that celebrate someone’s conversion.
When we think of Paul’s conversion, we think of the episode we hear described in our first Mass reading from Acts – Saul hearing the voice of Jesus on the road to Damascus and being blinded by the encounter, after which he begins to “proclaim Jesus.” That gives us the impression of conversion as something that happens in a single instant.
Conversion, however, is better thought of as a process – a lifelong process of turning more and more towards God, towards the transcendent. Like Paul, we have moments of deep conversion that occur in the course of our lives, moments we can look back at and say – something earthshakingly significant happened to me here. But those moments are all part of an ongoing process of conversion that continues and is not complete until we die. Wherever we are on our journey at any given time, there is still need for growth, still need both for the deepening of our relationship with God and strengthening in the living out the consequences of that deepened relationship.
Understanding conversion as process helps us understand how important are each of the steps we take along the path of our conversion journey. We have such a strong tendency to judge harshly what we in hindsight view as missteps along the way. It is so very easy for us to forget that everything we experience and learn from contributes to our growth process, is part of who we have become and how we relate to God and others, and is a potential source of grace.
As we celebrate Paul’s conversion today, let us be open to the ways in which Jesus seeks to deepen our own converstion so that we may proclaiim Him more and more.