How is it that St. Paul who had once been the greatest persecutor of the early Church, became its most passionate defender and advocate? The answer is simple in one respect - he was converted in and through Jesus Christ. His life was transformed by dying and rising with Christ and thus Paul was compelled to share this good news with all whom he encountered. Ultimately, Paul was transformed by a personal and life-transforming encounter with Jesus - such that he saw the false road he was walking, and a new path opened up before him. How could Paul not share God’s transformative love with a waiting world?
A few years ago, I was in a spiritual direction session with a wise Jesuit priest who explained that there are three stages of Christian discipleship, the last of which is to become, like St. Paul, a fool for Christ. He intimated that I was not there yet - I had no illusions - and I suspect most of us have not reached this last stage of discipleship. St. Paul models often in Scripture a deep and abiding spiritual freedom - a non-attachment to things of this world and a pervasive desire for only one thing - to discern and do the will of God.
In the figure of St. Paul and all the great saints there is a dynamism that opens up to new life - God’s love results in conversion and spiritual freedom as both these gifts provide for the restorative work God intends to accomplish through his disciples. This is our story too and great potential exists when divine love overflows onto spiritual freedom and restoration. This would seem to be the only path forward for Catholics in our modern world and a needed light for our world.
In this present moment - in a parish amidst the transition of pastors, in a Twin Cities community searching for greater justice and peace, and in a nation beleaguered by division and uncertainty, God’s perennial call is personal, transformative, and grace-filled. I am personally thankful to God for his call to serve this amazing community of faith at the Basilica, to all of you for your commitment and faith, and to the great saints, including our patron - Mary, the Mother of God, for showing us that, springing from God’s divine love, spiritual freedom and restoration are indeed possible.