Paul lived at the time of Jesus but as far as we know they never met. Paul was first called Saul. As a young man, he was a very bright student of the Hebrew religion. When he grew older, he persecuted the followers of Jesus.
In the Bible’s Acts of the Apostles, we read about Saul’s amazing conversion (chapters 9, 22, 26). What happened? One day, Paul was on his way to the city of Damascus to hunt down more Christians. Suddenly, a great light shone all around him. As he fell to the ground blind, he heard a voice say, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” Saul answered, “Who are you, Sir?” And the voice said, “I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting.” Saul was shocked and confused. After a few second, he asked, “What do you want me to do?” Jesus told him to continue on to Damascus and there he would be told what to do.
At that moment, through the power of God, Saul received the gift to believe in Jesus. Weak and trembling, he reached out for help. His companions led him into Damascus. The light had blinded him temporarily. Now that he was blind he could really “see” the truth. And Jesus had come personally to meet him, to invite him to conversion. Saul became a great lover of Jesus. After his baptism, he thought only of helping everyone know and love Jesus, the Savior.
We know Saul by his Roman name of Paul. He is called “the apostle.” He traveled all over the world, preaching the Good News. He led countless people to Jesus. He worked and suffered. His enemies tried to kill him several times. Yet nothing could stop him. When he was old and tired, he was once again put in prison and sentenced to die. Still Saint Paul was happy to suffer and even die for Christ.
This great apostle wrote marvelous letters to the Christians. They are in the Bible. These letters, called epistles, are read frequently during the Liturgy of the Word at Mass.
Saint Paul’s conversion was very important for the life of the Church. We are reminded that the Lord looks for us, too. He finds us along our Damascus road. He invites us to give up the things in our lives that keep him away. Will we recognize him as Saint Paul did? Will we be willing to become real followers of Jesus as Paul was? Let us ask Saint Paul to help us.