Since the 8th century the feast of the conversion of St. Paul has been set apart by the Church to return thanks to almighty God for His act of grace in bringing the future apostle to the Faith. After the miracle of Christ’s Resurrection no other wonder in the history of the early Church is a stronger proof of the divine origin of Christianity than the marvellous conversion of St. Paul. Just as there was a commemoration of St. Paul on the Feast of St. Peter’s Chair at Rome last week, there is a commemoration today of St. Peter at the Collect, Secret and Postcommunion.
Saul of Tarsus, a Pharisee in Jerusalem after the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ, swore to wipe out the new Christian church, called The Way. He got letters from the high priest, authorizing him to arrest any followers of Jesus in the city of Damascus.
On the Damascus Road, Saul and his companions were struck down by a blinding light, brighter than the noonday sun. Saul heard a voice say to him: “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” (Acts 9:4) When Saul asked who was speaking to him, the voice replied, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” (Acts 9:5-6)
The men with Saul heard the sound but did not see the vision of the risen Christ that Saul did. Saul was blinded. They led him by the hand into Damascus to a man named Judas, on Straight Street. For three days Saul was blind and did not eat or drink anything. Meanwhile, Jesus appeared in a vision to a disciple in Damascus named Ananias and told him to go to Saul.
Ananias was afraid because he knew Saul’s reputation as a merciless persecutor of the church. Jesus repeated his command, explaining that Saul was his chosen instrument to deliver the gospel to the Gentiles, their kings, and the people of Israel. So Ananias found Saul at Judas’ house, praying for help. Ananias laid his hands on Saul, telling him Jesus had sent him to restore his sight and that Saul might be filled with the Holy Spirit.
Something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes and he could see again. He arose and was baptized into the Christian faith. Saul ate, regained his strength, and stayed with the Damascus disciples three days.
Points of Interest From the Conversion of Paul:
- After his conversion, Saul changed his name to Paul.
- The conversion of Paul shows that Jesus himself wanted the gospel to go to the Gentiles and that it was no human being’s idea. That would quash any argument from the early Jewish Christians that the gospel was only for the Jews.
- The men with Saul did not see the risen Jesus, but Saul did. This miraculous message was meant for one person only, Saul.
- Saul witnessed the risen Christ, which fulfilled the qualification for an apostle (Acts 1:21-22). Only those who had seen the risen Christ could testify to his resurrection.
- Jesus did not distinguish between his church and his followers, and himself. Jesus told Saul he had been persecuting him. This serves as a warning that anyone who persecutes Christians or the Christian church is persecuting Christ himself.
- In one moment of fear, enlightenment, and regret, Saul understood that Jesus was indeed the true Messiah, and that he (Saul) had helped murder and imprison innocent people. Saul realized that despite his previous beliefs as a Pharisee, he now knew the truth about God and was obligated to obey him.
- Saul of Tarsus possessed perfect qualifications to be an evangelist for Christ: He was versed in Jewish culture and language, his upbringing in Tarsus made him familiar with the Greek language and culture as well, his training in Jewish theology helped him connect the Old Testament with the gospel, and as a skilled tentmaker he could support himself with that trade.
- When retelling his conversion later to King Agrippa, Paul said Jesus told him, “It is hard for you to kick against the goads.” (Acts 26:14) A goad was a sharp stick used to control oxen or cattle. Some interpret this as meaning Paul had pangs of conscience when persecuting the church. Others believe Jesus meant that it was futile to try to oppress the church.
- Paul’s life-changing experience on the Damascus Road led to his baptism and instruction in the Christian faith. He became the most determined of the apostles, suffering brutal physical pain, persecution, and finally martyrdom. He revealed his secret of enduring a lifetime of hardship for the gospel: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)
INTROIT 2 Tim. 1:12 Psalm 36: 30-31
I know whom I have believed and I am certain that he is able to keep that which I have committed to him, against that day; being a just judge. (Ps. 138: 1, 2) Lord, Thou hast proved me and known me: Thou hast known my sitting down, and my rising up. v. Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost, as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen. Repeat I know whom I have believed…
God, Who hast taught the whole world by the preaching of blessed Paul, Thy apostle, we beseech Thee, grant us, who this day celebrate his conversion, that we may advance toward Thee by following his example. Through the same Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God Forever and ever. R. Amen
Commemoration of St. Peter
God, Who, committing to blessed Peter, Thine apostle, the keys of the heavenly kingdom, didst bestow on him the pontifical function of binding and loosing, grant that, by the help of his intercession, we may be delivered from the bonds of our sins. Who livest and reignest, with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. R.Amen
EPISTLE Acts 9: 1-22
Lesson from the Acts of the Apostles. In those days, Saul, as yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest, and asked of him letters to Damascus, to the synagogues; that if he found any men and women of this way, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. And as he went on his journey, it came to pass that he drew nigh to Damascus: and suddenly a light from heaven shined round about him. And falling on the ground he heard a voice saying to him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me? Who said, Who art Thou, Lord? And He said, I am Jesus of Nazareth, Whom thou persecutest. It is hard for thee to kick against the goad. And he trembling and astonished, said, Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do? And the Lord said to him, Arise, and go into the city, and there it shall be told thee what thou must do. Now the men who went in company with him stood amazed, hearing indeed a voice, but seeing no man. And Saul arose from the ground, and when his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. But they leading him by the hand, brought him to Damascus. And he was there three days without sight; and he did neither eat nor drink. Now there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias and the Lord said to him in a vision, Ananias. And he said, Behold I am here, Lord. And the Lord said to him, Arise and go into the street that is called Strait, and seek in the house of Judas one named Saul of Tarsus; for behold he prayeth. (And he saw a man, named Ananias, coming in, and putting his hands upon him, that he might recover his sight.) But Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints in Jerusalem: and here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that invoke Thy name. And the Lord said to him, Go thy way; for this man is to Me a vessel of election, to carry My name before the gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how great things he must suffer for My name’s sake. And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house, and laying his hands upon him he said, Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus hath sent me, He that appeared to thee in the way as thou camest, that thou mayest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost. And immediately there fell from his eyes as it were scales, and he received his sight; and rising up he was baptized. And when he had taken meat, he was strengthened. And he was with the disciples that were at Damascus for some days. And immediately he preached Jesus in the synagogues, that He !s the Son of God. And all that heard him were astonished, and said, Is not this he who persecuted in Jerusalem those who called upon this name: and came hither for that intent, that he might carry them bound to the chief priest? But Saul increased much more in strength, and confounded the Jews who dwelt in Damascus, affirming that this is the Christ.
GRADUAL/ALLELUIA Galatian 2: 8-9
He Who worked in Peter for the apostleship, worked also in me among the Gentiles: and they recognized the grace of God that was given to me. V. The grace of God in me has not been fruitless; but His grace always remains in me. Alleluia, alleluia. V. A great saint is Paul, a vessel of election, he is indeed worthy to be glorified, for he was made worthy to sit upon one of the twelve thrones. Alleluia.
GOSPEL Matt. 19:27-29
At that time, Peter said to Jesus, Behold we have left all and followed You; what then shall we have? And Jesus said to them, Amen I say to you that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man shall sit on the throne of His glory, shall also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left house, or brothers, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and shall possess life everlasting.
OFFERTORY ANTIPHON Ps 138:17
To me, Your friends, O God, are made exceedingly honorable; their principality is exceedingly strengthened.
O Lord, make holy the offerings of Your people, through the prayer of Paul, Your Apostle, that those things which You have established as pleasing to You may be more pleasing through his patronal intercession. Through Jesus Christ, thy Son our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. R. Amen.
For ST. PETER
We beseech You, Lord, may the prayer of the blessed Apostle Peter recommend the petitions and offerings of Your Church, so that what we celebrate in his honor may obtain forgiveness for us. Through Jesus Christ, thy Son our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. R. Amen.
PREFACE of the Apostles
It it truly meet and just, right and for our salvation, to entreat Thee humbly, O Lord, that Thou wouldst not desert Thy flock, O everlasting Shepherd, but, through Thy blessed Apostles, wouldst keep it under Thy constant protection; that it may be governed by those same rulers, whom as vicars of Thy work, Thou didst set over it to be its pastors. And therefore with Angels and Archangels, with Thrones and Dominations, and with all the hosts of the heavenly army, we sing the hymn of Thy glory, evermore saying: Holy, Holy, Holy,
COMMUNION ANTIPHON Matthew 19:28-29
Amen I say to you, that you who have left all things, and followed Me, shall receive a hundredfold, and shall possess life everlasting.
Made holy by the sacrament of salvation, we beseech You, O Lord, that the prayers of him under whose patronal care You have granted us to be ruled may never fail us. Through Jesus Christ, thy Son our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. R. Amen.
For ST. PETER
O Lord, may the gift we offer bring us joy, that as we praise Your wondrous work in Your Apostle Peter, so through him may we share Your generous forgiveness. Through Jesus Christ, thy Son our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. R. Amen.