Dear brothers and sisters,
All of us are here today because we love Jesus Christ and we want to follow him more and more closely. In other words, there is still a gap between the kind of Catholic we would like to be, and the kind of Catholic we actually are. We know that a follower of Christ should be patient, self-controlled, faithful, generous, and kind. We also know that although we follow that recipe sometimes, many other times we don’t. In the face of this contrast between the desire of our hearts and the reality of our daily lives, we can be tempted to frustration. Today, however, the Church is giving us an antidote to that frustration in the example of St. Paul. In today’s First Reading, St. Paul shows up in Jerusalem three years after his dramatic conversion on the road to Damascus. He has been believing in and following Christ for three years already. Yet he arrives in Jerusalem, and what happens? His bold and abrasive personality gets him in trouble right away. He shows up full of faith and love for Christ, overflowing with zeal and sincerity, but his old violent and intimidating temperament hasn’t gone away. In a matter of days, he instills deep fear in the Christians, and he infuriates the Jews so much that they start plotting to kill him! Things are so bad, in fact, that he has to be sent away to Tarsus, his home town, 500 miles away! Notice what happens as soon as he’s gone; St. Luke writes: “The Church throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria was at peace.” The great St. Paul didn’t become a saint overnight – it took time for God’s grace to transform him, and it takes time for God’s grace to transform us too.