Today is the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, and so the first Mass reading for today is one of the two accounts of that conversion contained in Acts.
Saul is a pretty bad guy. Forget the “pretty” – a really bad guy. He is not harmlessly misguided, not just a slacker with no appetite for serious prayer or deepening his life with God, not just a bumbler who doesn’t have a clear sense of the road forward.
Saul is a murderous persecutor of Christians. By his own account, he “persecuted this Way to death, binding both men and women and delivering them to prison.”
If you were looking over a list of possible disciples to proclaim the Gospel, you might easily pass over Saul’s name. But not God. Not only does God not discard Saul, but he has great plans for him.
And when Saul encounters Jesus on the road to Damascus, he is irrevocably changed. Jesus appears to him, speaks to him, invites him and he becomes a different man. And when he meets Ananias, Ananias tells him, “The God of our ancestors designated you to know his will, to see the Righteous One, and to hear the sound of his voice; for you will be his witness before all to what you have seen and heard.”
If even someone as seemingly beyond redemption as Saul, can be turned from darkness toward the light, how can we doubt the healing power of Jesus? There are some people who have a tendency to think, “It’s too late for me” or “After what I’ve done, God can’t possibly have any use for me.” The story of the conversion of St. Paul is a vivid demonstration of the fallacy of such thoughts. It is never too late for anyone.
Conversion is always possible – for everyone.