Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul the Apostle (January 25): "Go into all the world and preach the Gospel"

Meditation: Do you believe that the Gospel - the good news of Jesus Christ - has power to set people free from sin, ignorance, and disbelief? At the end of Mark's Gospel account he tells us that the Lord Jesus, who died on the cross for our sins, and who rose on the third day to give us new life, now commissions his apostles to carry on the work and mission which he accomplished. Just before his departure to return to his Father in heaven, Jesus tells his apostles to "proclaim the Gospel to the whole creation" - to every person, village, and nation throughout the world. Jesus gives to his followers the task and mission to carry on the work which he accomplished for us - to bring the light and truth of the Gospel to all.

The Gospel is the power of God that sets us free and brings us new life in Jesus Christ
Jesus' departure and ascension to the right hand of the Father in heaven was both an end and a new beginning for his disciples. While it was the end of Jesus' physical presence with his beloved disciples, it marked the beginning of Jesus' presence with them in a new way. Jesus promised that he would be with them always to the end of time. Now as the glorified and risen Lord and Savior, Jesus promised to send them the Holy Spirit who would anoint them with power on the Feast of Pentecost, just as Jesus was anointed for his ministry at the River Jordan. When the Lord Jesus departed physically from the apostles, they were not left in sorrow or grief. Instead, they were filled with joy and with great anticipation for the coming of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus' last words to his apostles point to his saving mission and to their mission to be witnesses of his saving death and his glorious resurrection and to proclaim the good news of salvation to all the world. Their task is to proclaim the good news of salvation, not only to the people of Israel, but to all the nations. God's love and gift of salvation is not just for a few, or for a nation, but it is for the whole world - for all who will accept it. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the power of God, the power to forgive sins, to heal, to set people free from the destructive force of evil and oppression, and to restore life. Do you believe in the power of the Gospel?

The Risen Lord Jesus works in and through us by the power of the Holy Spirit
This is the great commission which the risen Christ gives to the whole church. All believers have been given a share in this task - to be heralds of the good news and ambassadors for Jesus Christ, the only savior of the world. We have not been left alone in this task, for the risen Lord Jesus works in and through us by the power of his Holy Spirit. Today we witness a new Pentecost as the Lord pours out his Holy Spirit upon his people to renew and strengthen the body of Christ and to equip it for effective ministry and mission to every land and people. Do you witness to others the joy of the Gospel and the hope of the resurrection to everlasting life with God in his kingdom?

The conversion of Paul the Apostle
Many Christians celebrate today the conversion of St. Paul who became an apostle to the Gentile nations. Paul testified how he first opposed the Gospel and persecuted Christians, but was converted when Jesus Christ appeared to him on the road to Damascus (Acts 22:3-16). Paul's encounter with the person of Christ radically changed his life and opened his eyes to the truth of the Gospel. Benedict XVI reflects on the significance of Paul's conversion for the whole Christian people:

"Paul's conversion matured in his encounter with the Risen Christ; it was this encounter that radically changed his life. What happened to him on the road to Damascus is what Jesus asks in today's Gospel: Saul is converted because, thanks to the divine light, "he has believed in the Gospel". In this consists his and our conversion: in believing in Jesus dead and risen and in opening to the illumination of his divine grace. In that moment Saul understood that his salvation did not depend on good works fulfilled according to the law, but on the fact that Jesus died also for him the persecutor and has risen. This truth by which every Christian life is enlightened thanks to Baptism completely overturns our way of life. To be converted means, also for each one of us, to believe that Jesus "has given himself for me", dying on the Cross (cf. Galatians 2: 20) and, risen, lives with me and in me. Entrusting myself to the power of his forgiveness, letting myself be taken by his hand, I can come out of the quicksands of pride and sin, of deceit and sadness, of selfishness and of every false security, to know and live the richness of his love." (from address given on January 25, 2009)
"Lord Jesus, through the gift of your Holy Spirit, you fill us with an indomitable spirit of praise and joy which no earthly trial can subdue. Fill me with your resurrection joy and help me to live a life of praise and thanksgiving for your glory. May I witness to those around me the joy of the gospel and the reality of your resurrection."

This reflection is courtesy of Don Schwager, whose website is located at: http://dailyscripture.servantsoftheword.org/readings/