Today, the Feast of the Conversion of the Apostle Paul, is a special day for the Diocese of Birmingham in Alabama, since our Cathedral is dedicated to him.
The Meaning of St. Paul’s Conversion
From a homily by Benedict XVI
The meaning of this mysterious transformation… is wonderfully demonstrated in St. Paul’s personal experience. After the extraordinary event that occurred on the road to Damascus, Saul, who was zealous in his persecution of the nascent Church, was transformed into a tireless apostle of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
It is clear from what happened to this extraordinary evangelizer that his transformation was not the result of long inner reflection nor even the fruit of personal effort. It was first and foremost a work of the grace of God who acted in his own inscrutable ways. This explains why, in writing to the community of Corinth a few years after his conversion, St. Paul affirms, as we heard in the first passage of this Vespers: “by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain” (1 Cor 15:10).
In addition, in considering attentively what happened to St. Paul, one understands that the transformation he experienced in his life is not limited to the ethical level — such as conversion from immorality to morality — nor to the intellectual level — such as a change in his way of understanding reality — but, rather, is a matter of the radical renewal of his being, similar in many aspects to a rebirth. This transformation is founded on participation in the mystery of the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ and is described as a gradual process of conformation to him. In the light of this awareness, when St Paul was subsequently called to defend the legitimacy of his apostolic vocation and of the Gospel he proclaimed, he was to say: “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal 2:20).