St. Paul was, by all accounts, a passionate and zealous man, both before and after his conversion to Christ. That dramatic moment, chronicled in the Acts of the Apostles, chapter 9, seems fitting and perhaps necessary for one so focused on his mission in life. His whole life journey changed in a blinding (literally) flash of light and a voice that he recognized as divine. Interestingly, the story goes that his companions saw the light but did not hear the voice. For that reason, perhaps, and for all that followed that coincided with the instructions given to Paul, it was easier for the witnesses to comprehend the total turnaround in his behavior. The comment that concludes the short biography of Paul on the americancatholic.org website this morning speaks of Paul’s style of writing as “rabbinical” and sometimes difficult to understand at its depth, but that in it we find so many beautiful jewels that have become part of the everyday coin in our Christian language. The quote they chose to illustrate this fact is certainly one of the most familiar and bears repeating as we consider the contribution of Paul to the spread of Christianity.
Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interest, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, hopes all things, endures all things…(1COR 13:4-7)
For most of us conversion is a daily thing, perhaps punctuated with brief moments of insight that keep us moving along our spiritual path. While we sometimes long for more visible and dramatic events to transform us, the value of a steady, day-to-day walk with God cannot be underestimated. Moreover, the example of those who live Paul’s defining words of love in all they do can remind us of the beauty of each life and can help us to humbly embrace our own as “the slow work of God.”