God’s Plans for Saul – and All of Us

Today the Catholic Church celebrates the feast of the conversion of St. Paul.

If we met Saul today, we might be tempted to think he was beyond redemption.  Saul was a Christian killer.  He took an active part in the martyrdom of Stephen.  At one point he confessed that “beyond measure” (his words) he persecuted the Church.  This is not a person harmlessly misguided, not just a slackard with no appetite for serious prayer and deepening his life with God, not just a bumbler.  But a murderous persecutor of Christians.

Yet, God is not through with this Saul.  Instead, he has great plans for him.  This murderer will become one of the principal persons to proclaim the Gospel.

Today’s first Mass reading gives us one of the accounts of how God accomplished this.  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. No longer Saul, he is now Paul, “a chosen instrument of [Jesus] to carry [Jesus’] name before Gentiles, kings, and children of Israel.”

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.” (Alternatively: “it is too late for that person.  God can’t possibly have any use for them.”) The story of the conversion of St. Paul is a vivid demonstration of the fallacy of such thoughts. It is never too late for any of us.

Conversion is always possible – for everyone.