The Conversion of Saint Paul the Apostle (Feast)
You will be Jesus’ witness before all to what you have seen and heard.
As we finish the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, you might wonder why we are celebrating the conversion of St. Paul. At first blush, he may not come across as a unifier—he did, after all, have a zealous personality and a knack for making enemies. He was not one to pull any punches when it came to advocating for the truth of the gospel.
But one of the truths Paul advocated so passionately for was the fact that in Christ, all believers are one. Think, for instance, of his tireless work in bridging the divide between Jews and Gentiles. He said it over and over again: baptism has made all believers one in Christ. All the old divisions had to fall away so that they could treat each other as equal brothers and sisters in the Lord (Galatians 3:28; Romans 10:12; 1 Corinthians 12:13; and Colossians 3:11).
That was not a very popular idea in an era when Jews and Gentiles were worlds apart. Obviously, there were significant religious and doctrinal differences. Gentiles had spent centuries persecuting and oppressing the Jews. They had different cultural traditions and national ideals. And precisely because they were not Jews, they came from a wide variety of ethnic backgrounds. What bridged those gaps? A lot of prayer and listening to the Holy Spirit. Paul himself had seen God at work in the Gentile believers whom he served so closely. That made him open to the way the Spirit was leading them toward unity.
What about us? We may not be able to resolve all the doctrinal issues that separate us from Christians of other denominations. But we can, by God’s grace, learn to love them as brothers and sisters in Christ. We have more in common than the Gentiles and Jews in the early Church. The grace of baptism unites us. The Holy Spirit unites us. Our godly desire for justice unites us. The more we see one another as beloved children of God and the more we work together on behalf of the gospel, the more we will be able to pursue unity according to the heart of God and on his timetable.
“Jesus, help me work for unity as St. Paul did by seeing all Christians as my brothers and sisters in you.”