Thoughts To Live By…

Mk 16:15-18 – Sunday Gospel Reflection

Posted on: January 24, 2009

January 25, 2009
Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul
Mk 16:15-18

Today we celebrate the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. This is given special importance this Sunday since it coincides with our celebration of the Bi-millennium of the  Apostle’s  birth. Paul, also known as Saul, was born in Tarsus in the early first century A.D. Saul was not a sinner who got converted. He was a faithful Jew, a Pharisee, a true disciple of the Law and to defend the faith he persecuted the  early followers of the Way (Christian).

It was only when he encountered Jesus on his way to Damascus that Paul was totally changed. After his personal encounter with Jesus who identified himself with the Christians whom he persecuted Paul was never been the same. He was converted into Christianity.  He became an Apostle of Jesus Christ and particularly, the Apostle to the Gentiles. Although he was not one among the original Twelve Apostles, St. Paul was conscious of what is ‘to be an apostle by vocation’ – i.e, not by self-choice and neither by human appointment, but rather exclusively by one’s calling and divine election (Pope Benedict XVI). With apostolic zeal, he faced the challenges of travel, cultures, imprisonment, and beatings; of shipwrecks and sleepless nights, of magic and philosophies. At the end, St. Paul he gave his life as a last and lasting witness to his deep and living faith in Jesus and his Body, the Church.

St. Paul in his Letter to Timothy once spoke about the universality of salvation when he wrote: “God wills all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:3-4). What does universality of salvation mean? What is its implication? The late Pope John Paul II addressed these two questions when he wrote:   “The universality of salvation means that it is granted not only to those who explicitly believe in Christ and have entered the Church. Since salvation is offered to all it must be made concretely available to all” (RM 9).

This explains why Jesus started his public ministry not only by calling his disciples to repentance, baptism and faith but also by calling and choosing group of disciples to be with him whom he named apostles so that later on he cound send them on a mission. What mission? Mission to evangelize. Mission to proclaim Jesus and his message of salvation. Mission to build and spread the Church. Mission to spread the reign of God here on earth until it is perfected in the Kingdom of heaven. Mission to teach, to sanctify, to govern and lead the  people to God, the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, and the  Origin and our Destiny.

As we celebrate the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul and the Bi-millennium of the Apostle’s birth, we are reminded of the mission entrusted by Christ to the Church, to the Apostles, to the Baptized and to all members of Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, the Church. In fact, the universal missionary task involves not only these chosen members of the Church, but all the baptized, each according to his or her individual vocation. “No believer in Christ, no institution of the Church can avoid this supreme duty: to proclaim Christ to all peoples” (Redemptoris missio, n. 3). By evangelizing the nations, the Church fulfills her own vocation, because she exists in order to evangelize (cf. Evangelii Nuntiandi, 14).

The Lord’s call to proclaim the Good News is still valid today: indeed it is ever more urgent. The call to mission acquires a singular urgency, particularly if we look at that part of humanity which still does not know Christ or recognize Him. Like Paul, we are cursed if we do not preach the Gospel. Proclaim, therefore, Christ and his Gospel in season and out of season!   [Pope John Paul II, 75th Anniversary of the World Mission Sunday]

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