Day 330: Saul's Conversion

Acts 9:1-25 The dramatic conversion of Saul illustrates the power of an encounter with the risen Lord.

I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting: These words reveal something of the Mystical Body of Christ, a concept that Saul, later renamed Paul, would develop in his writings. The Christian community is, in a very real sense, the Body of Christ. A good deed done to a member of the Mystical Body is done to Christ himself, and the opposite holds true as well. (CCC 432, 449, 598, 639, 790-791)

Ch 9:2-3 Damascus lies outside Palestine, in Syria. The Sanhedrin wielded power over Jews even outside of Judea. 

The Way: A name used to describe the early Christian community. (CCC 442)

Ch 9:12-13 Your saints: In the New Testament, faithful Christians still living on earth were often called “saints,” which essentially means “holy ones.” That use is consistent with the doctrine of the Communion of Saints, which recognizes the Church Militant (the living members of the Church on earth), the Church Suffering (the Holy Souls in Purgatory), and the Church Triumphant (the saints in Heaven), all of whom, from a certain perspective, can rightly be called saints. The Church is holy because Christ, who is All-holy, has sanctified her by joining her to himself as his body (cf. LG 39). The word “saint,” as used in the nascent Church, is an indication of their awareness of the universal call to holiness. (CCC 823-826, 1226, 1475)

Ch 9:14-15 A chosen instrument: God called Saul specifically to the task of evangelizing the Gentile nations. (CCC 442)

Ch 9:20 He is the Son of God: The divinity and Sonship of Christ is the foundational teaching of Christianity. (CCC 442-443)

Ch 9:23-31 Many days: Paul remained in Arabia for three years before traveling to Jerusalem to meet with the disciples there (cf. Gal 1:17-18). Like the people of Damascus, the disciples in Jerusalem were uncertain of Saul and his claim of conversion. He gained enough credibility through his teaching and fellowship that the disciples decided to protect him when the Hellenists sought to kill him.

Comfort of the Holy Spirit: It is the Spirit that builds, animates, and sanctifies the Church. (CCC 747)

Ch 9:29 Like Stephen before him, Saul drew antagonism from the Hellenist Jews.

Ch 9:32-43 These descriptions of healings performed by Peter sound very much like the accounts of healings by Christ, and for good reason: Christ conferred upon the disciples the same power to heal if requested in his name. 

Jesus Christ heals you: Peter explicitly gave Christ the credit for the healing, as it is indeed he who heals through the Church and her ministers. (CCC 1507)

Romans 15:1-13 The obligation to be of service to others and to bear each other’s burdens comes from the example of Christ’s spirit of service. Our Christian faith should lead us to love one another with the love of Christ and as children of God. (CCC 162, 2627, 2657)

Ch 15:1 We who are strong: The “strong” Christians were the Gentile Christians as well as those Jewish Christians who saw that the old laws governing dietary restrictions and worship were to be replaced by the New Law of grace and love springing from the New Covenant in Christ. The strong, however, should be tolerant of those who lacked the fortitude to completely break away from the Old Law. There is a parallel in the social teachings of the Church, founded upon the Gospel and the Beatitudes, that calls upon those who are endowed with wealth and material possessions to share their resources with those who lack them, always looking out for the common good of society. (CCC 582, 1905-1912)

Ch 15:4 Scriptures: Sacred Scripture, which is comprised of the books of the Old and New Testaments, is a foundation for our liturgy and life as Christians. The various books of Scripture, identified by the Church as inspired by the Holy Spirit, pride the history of our salvation and guidance for sanctifying our lives rooted ultimately in the example of Christ. (CCC 121-122)

Ch 15:5-9 For Paul and for us, Christ is the perfect model for every aspect of life, including love, hospitality, spirit of service, patience, and mercy. (CCC 520)

Ch 15:14-33 Christians are called to offer their lives as sacrifices in union with Christ’s sacrifice to God. Paul, for this reason, urged the Gentiles to make themselves an acceptable offering to God. Paul then announced his plan to visit Rome and Spain and requested prayers for his apostolic mission. In Scripture the Greek leiturgia (“liturgy”) refers not only to worship but also to the preaching of the Gospel and to works of charity. In liturgical worship, the Church exercises the one priesthood of Christ through his ministers, which has priestly, prophetic (preaching), and kingly (service in charity) components. (CCC 1070-1072)

Ch 15:25-32 Paul took up a collection for the poor of the Church in Jerusalem during his third missionary journey. Giving alms to the poor is an obligation of Christian charity and justice.

Delivered from the unbelievers: Paul knew he faced danger in visiting Jerusalem. Indeed, on this very trip he would be arrested and imprisoned. (CCC 1070, 2629)

Ch 16:1-27 The list of greetings reflects the diversity and universality of the early Church. It includes names deriving from several different cultures and languages, all people with whom Paul had a relationship without ever having traveled to Rome. Christ instructed his followers to spread the Good News throughout the earth.

All the churches: Paul referred to what today we call “particular churches,” or dioceses. Each local community of believers is a particular church in itself but is united in faith with the universal Church founded by Christ. (CCCC 832-833)

Ch 16:17-20 The people who were creating “dissensions and difficulties” were false teachers, who showed more interest in gratifying the flesh through gluttonous behavior than sacrificing themselves for the Kingdom of God. 

Crush Satan under your feet: The sanctity of the early Christians would ultimately defeat the forces of evil. Paul here refers to the Protoevangelium, wherein God first promised a Redeemer who would crush the serpent with his heel and liberate the world from sin and the bondage of Satan (cf. Gn 3:15). (CCC 410-411)

Ch 16:23 Other ancient authorities add verse 24: “The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.”

Ch 16:25-27 Revelation of the mystery: This refers to God’s plan of salvation, for which he had long prepared his people and which would culminate in the Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross. The Church professes this mystery of the Faith in the Creed and in her liturgy. (CCC 2558)

Ch 16:26 Obedience of faith: The Gospel must be preached to all nations in order for all people to be able to respond to Christ’s invitation of repentance and conversion (cf. Rom 1:5). (CCC 143, 1204, 2087)

(*The Didache Bible RSV-CE Ignatius Edition, 2006)

Key Event 67a: Saul's Conversion (Acts 9)

On the road to Damascus, Saul, the fierce persecutor of the Church, sees a blinding light.  It is the risen Jesus, who asks Saul, "Why do you persecute me?" (Acts 9:4).  This encounter transforms Saul into one of the greatest missionaries of the church and plants the seeds of his later understanding of the Church as the Body of Christ.

Prayer by Fr. Mike: “Father in Heaven we give you praise and glory. We thank you so much. Thank you for getting us not just through St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans, but thank you for getting us to it. Thank you for opening our hearts and opening our minds by this great Encyclical, this great Letter, this great Epistle of grace of your love for every one of us. Help us to say yes to your love today and every day in our lives. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.”