Sermon: The Conversion of St. Paul

The podcast is available here.

The Conversion of St. Paul by Caravaggio

The sixth chapter of the Book of the Prophet Isaiah begins: “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple.”  He goes on to describe the angels in attendance who were singing:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;

the whole earth is full of his glory.”

However, because he had seen the Lord (no one can see the Lord and live), he cried out: “Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”  Then he reports, “One of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs.  The seraph touched my mouth with it and said: “Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out.”  Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I; send me!”  And he said, “Go….”  And Isaiah went to the Israelites as the Lord commanded him.

Although Paul’s encounter with the Lord was different, it was also very similar.  The great light and glory of the Lord appeared around him and he fell to the ground in fear.  However, unlike the message that Isaiah was given, Paul was told to go to the Gentiles and proclaim the Good News, “to  open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.”  In a very real way, the Lord said to Paul the exact same words as he spoke to Isaiah: “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” And Isaiah said and Paul said and so many others have said, “Here am I; send me!”

From the beginning, God has been calling all people back into relationship and making that relationship possible and eternal through Jesus, the only begotten Son.  This is a message that you have all heard and responded to.  The Lord called and you responded, but there is more, for Jesus also said to us, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  Jesus is asking… he is asking us, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?”  For a variety of reasons, that can be a scary question to answer, because we do not know where it will lead or who it will lead us to.  And to my knowledge, there is really only one way to overcome the reasons and the fears and that is to have a passion for souls.  Without any judgment, to look at them, to love them, and to desire eternal life for them.  This passion for souls is one that is always seeking ways to reveal God to those who are lost or broken or simply unaware of his great love for them.  And it is a passion that must burn brightly and therefore must always be tended, nourished with the Word of God, prayer, and the blessed sacrament of the Eucharist.  Build up within yourself this passion for souls, and when the Lord asks, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?”  Say with Isaiah and with Paul, “Here am I, send me!”

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