On a liturgical note: The conversion of St Paul

By Canon Philip Gillespie

On Monday 25 January, the Church commemorates the conversion of Saint Paul – a conversion which was as dramatic as it was influential.

The zeal and dedication with which Saul had set about persecuting the early followers of the way of Jesus is now transformed into the powerful and energetic proclaiming of Jesus as Lord – the one to whom all the Hebrew scriptures (the Old Testament) bore witness and whose influence and mindset was to embrace every aspect of life.

The week leading up to this feast will be held as a time of particular prayer for the unity of all Christians in the mission of proclaiming the Lordship of this same Jesus, the one who is the source of every spiritual blessing (Ephesians 1:3). The theme this year is given to us as 'Salt of the Earth' – the call for Christians to give flavour and interest (and, in a sense, depth and meaning) to the world and the society in which we live.

This call to unity is just as important for our own lives as individuals, parishes and communities within the life of the Church. During Advent we heard many times in the readings at Mass the invitation to integrity, to be holy as the Lord our God is holy. It is this witness of words and actions in harmony and in unity which will lead others to ask those questions in their own lives which – we firmly believe – will lead them to Christ and to the wisdom of His teaching and His Gospel.

Lord Jesus, Lord of wholeness,                                                                                                 
your prayer for unity amongst your disciples has often fallen                                                      
on closed ears and on hard hearts.                                                                                     
Forgive us our closed ears, forgive us our hard hearts which perpetuate suspicion,
prejudice and division: forgive us our fractured mission.
Open our hearts, eyes and minds                                                                                                   
to your love and truth within all Christian people                                                                     
and strengthen in us the resolve to work to restore the unity of your Church                         
and your creation to the glory of your name.