It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me

Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul

January 25

A reflection on the Apostle’s conversion from the book

Praying with Saint Paul by Magnificat

No Eyewitness, but a Witness Nonetheless

Rebecca Vitz Cherico

 “I handed on to you as of first importance what I also received:

that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures;

that he was buried; that he was raised on the third day in 

accordance with the scriptures; that he appeared to Cephas,

then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than

five hundred brothers at once.” (1 Cor 15:3-6)  

One of the most striking things about Saint Paul’s conversion and belief is that he did not himself know Jesus. Paul was not one of the Twelve, and never met Jesus of Nazareth in the flesh. But it almost seems silly to mention it, when we consider his importance in the early Church and the strength of his commitment and conversion: Paul certainly knew Christ. Paul is a great person for twenty-first century Christians to look to–who, more than Paul, understands the situation of those who come after–those whose faith is based on trusted testimony and on the experience of a newness in life whose origin is in him. Saint Paul, as a former persecutor of Christians, is uniquely qualified to witness to Christ. If a Jewish man who never knew Jesus personally and even hated and distrusted Christians can be converted, then the evidence for believing in Christ must truly be convincing.  

Paul handed on to the early Christians what had been handed on to him–he is not an eyewitness, but he is truly a witness nevertheless; a witness who was told by Jesus himself that persecuting Christians was the same as persecuting him. While he did not see Christ risen in his human form, he heard his voice and witnessed his saving power in dramatic ways and places: in his own conversion; in the Areopagus; and in many other miraculous events. But he knows that all that has happened to him depends on the truth that he received–the truth that Jesus came, died for our sins, was raised, and was seen: both by his first followers, and then by many more. This is of first importance, because everything else we believe depends on it. We have inherited a truth that we can now verify in our own lives; let us not shrink from the task that is set before us.

Lord, let me remember the truth of your sacrifice. Do not let my remoteness from your Son in time and place confuse me; he is with me today if I will only seek him out. Help me to recognize you in my present reality and witness to you today.

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