From Fr. Michael E. Gaitley, MIC, author of the popular book "Consoling the Heart of Jesus," comes an extraordinary 33-day journey to Marian consecration with four giants of Marian... Read more
By Felix Carroll (Aug 7, 2012)
If you are looking for words to live by, it's impossible to go wrong with the following:
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
They are the words of St. Paul (from Rom 12:9-16). You know St. Paul, a persecutor of Christ's followers until he was famously converted on the road to Damascus, who became Christianity's most influential early missionary, and who wrote roughly two-thirds of the New Testament along the way, until his martyrdom around A.D. 67.
For devotees of Divine Mercy, St. Paul stands as a seminal figure. His theology continually points to the reality of God's tender love for humanity. His writings are eminently quotable, and his conversion story eminently stirring.
Saul was his birth name. He came from a well-to-do Jewish family from Tarsus, in modern-day Turkey. Paul was on the Damascus Road, "breathing murderous threats against the disciples of the Lord" (Acts 9:1), when he came — in a manner of speaking — into a head-on collision with the Lord. A flash of light caused Paul to fall to the ground. Then, Paul heard the Lord's voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?" (Acts 9:4).
Following this encounter, St. Paul devoted his life to zealously proclaiming the truth of Christ to the whole world.
A Two-Way Street
Let's consider what took place on the road to Damascus. It was there where St. Paul became a "chosen instrument" of the Lord to carry His name before the world (Acts 9:15). It is there where St. Paul came face to face with Divine Mercy, the cause for hope and a call for conversion.
In St. Paul's conversion story, we are reminded how we, too, are either traveling through life building Christ's Church up or we are tearing it down. We are either carrying Christ's name through our love of God and neighbor, or we are persecuting Him through our sins. We are either glorifying Him or rejecting Him.
Christ awaits all of us on this road. The choice is ours. One choice is life-giving; the other is lethal. There is no neutral ground.
Paul was demonstrably for God. And His example gives proof to Christ's words to St. Faustina, "The greater the sinner, the greater the right he has to My mercy" (Diary of St. Faustina, 723).
Indeed, St. Paul referred to himself as "foremost" among sinners (1 Tm 1:15). But as Jesus' message of Divine Mercy teaches us, Christ extends mercy to even the greatest of sinners because He wants all people to be saved. "For God delivered all to disobedience, that He might have mercy upon all," St. Paul wrote (Rom 11:32).
Saint Paul new well that no one on earth, regardless of his or her sins, is irretrievably lost.
"You were dead in your transgressions and sins in which you once lived following the age of this world. ... But God, who is rich in mercy ... brought us to life with Christ ..." (Eph 2:1-5)
He wrote how he was "mercifully treated" by the Lord "so that in me, as the foremost [sinner], Christ Jesus might display all His patience as an example for those who would come to believe in Him for everlasting life" (1 Tm 1:16).
For All People
God's patience paid off.
Paul went on to change the course of Christianity. Through his missionary journeys, he expanded the geographical reach of the Church. Against the protestations of some of Christ's followers at the time, St. Paul persevered in extending Christ's gospel to all people — Jews and Gentiles alike. "There is no distinction [between Jew and Gentile]; all have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God" (Rom 3:22-23).
In his writings, he wrestled with the questions that Jesus' life, death and resurrection created, and he produced many of the New Testament's most profound reflections. In words that ring just as powerfully today, he wrote, "Do not conform yourself to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind" (Rom 12:2).
What's most evident in St. Paul's writings is his burning desire to share his experience of God's love — a love we are to receive and then obligated to extend to others. He eloquently echoed Christ's call to brotherly union, which St. Paul expressed in his pithy exhortation to "forbear one another in love" (Eph 4:2). He gave the following definition of love to use as our guide:
Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails" (1 Corinthians 13:4-8).
'Christ Needs Apostles'
Back in 2007, during an announcement about the Pauline Year, Pope Benedict XVI remarked how the Church needs modern Christians who are willing to imitate St. Paul's witness and missionary zeal. "As in the (Church's) beginning, today, too, Christ needs apostles ready to sacrifice themselves," Pope Benedict said.
The Holy Father said that what "most deeply motivated" Paul "was the fact of being loved by Jesus Christ and the desire to transmit to others this love. Paul was someone capable of loving, and all his laboring and suffering is explained only from this core."
Like St. Paul, we are called to know the Lord, to be His chosen instruments, and to bear His name before the world.