The all-consuming power of God’s grace to transform a person and give them a totally new vision is exemplified in the ilfe of St. Paul. He went from being a zealous persecutor who breathed out murderous threats against Christians and delivered on them, to a zealous apostle of Christ who practically evangelized the entire Mediterranean world proclaiming that Jesus Christ is Lord. St. Paul wrote several letters which make up much of the New Testament. He had denied that Jesus could have possibly been the promised Messiah because he was crucified on a tree, such a man could only be cursed… But that was before he saw the Resurrected Christ with glorified wounds, the victor over the curse of death.
God used the zeal of Paul for his purpose, to build up his kingdom on earth and to boldly proclaim the sovereignty of Christ to “Gentiles, Kings, and the Children of Israel.”
And of course, he had to experience suffering among the way, enduring things like inclement temperatures, physical infirmity, stoning, scourging, shipwreck and imprisonment, thus participating in the Cross of Christ as a means of making reparation for his past. In and through the Cross, St. Paul could boast in his suffering by uniting it to the suffering of Christ for the good of his Body the Church, which he formerly persecuted. Indeed, he was transformed more and more into Christ by sharing in his suffering and in the grace of his glory.
It is interesting to note that Saul was struck with blindness on the Damascus Road – – it was symbolic of his own inner blindness to the truth. He received sight upon receiving the Holy Spirit and the gift of faith, which occurs in baptism and confirmation. When he ate (symbolic of the Holy Eucharist), he was strengthened. In the transformation that began, not by circumcision but by baptism into Christ Jesus, St. Paul died to his former self and rose to new life. Henceforth. he could rightly say, “I have been crucified with Christ – – I live no longer, but Christ lives in me.”
St. Paul’s conversion was a miracle of God’s transforming grace. What the Lord did for him, he can do for anyone. If there is hope for him, there is hope for absolutely everyone. We can win the race to win, we can become more than conquerors, we can become great Saints through transformation into Christ and cooperation with his saving, sanctifying grace. Indeed, in baptism, we are already “holy ones” and are set on the path to increasing holiness through ever continual conversion, day by day.