Conversion of St. Paul – January 2019

Remark of Blogger: Paul is saved, is divinized, even while menacing the Church of Christ with death. He is not saved by ideas, but by an existential conversion. He falls as Saul, but rises as Paul with Christ living in Him. Read Ratzinger below to get the meaning of what the act of faith is: conversion away from self. Notice this  means that we “know” God not by ideas but by an existential experience of going out of ourselves. This experience is a “knowing” of the Transcendent God because it has been revealed that we have been created in the image and likness of the divine Persons. Therefore, an experience of ourselves  in our ontological bare bones – not abstract thinking but as generously acting persons – is an experience of God in any altruistice acting. We have to hold on to that. We can, and do, experience God, and with that experience have a kind of knowledge that cannot be written in the books. John Paul II said as much (and Ratzinger acknowledged it) when he said that “it  is therefore possible to speak from a solid foundaiton about human experience, moral experience, or religious experience. And if it is  possible to speak of such experiences, it is difficult to deny that, in the realm of human experience, one also finds good and evil, truth and beauty and God. God Himself certainly is not an object of human empiricism; the Sacred Scripture, in its own way, emphasizes this: ‘No one has ever seen God (cf. Jn. 1, 18). If God is a knowableo bject… He is such on the basis of man’s experience both of the visible world and of his interior world….”(Crossing the Threshold of Hope” p. 34. And Rat zinger’s review of the book underlined the JPII’s accentuation of the notion of experience.  NOte that it is here that the Magisterium of the Catholic Church blends with the positive affirmation of an existential knowledge of God persistetnly available to all – even when denied.

Robert Barron



MARK 16:15-18
Friends, today we reflect on the significance of the conversion of St. Paul. Paul’s encounter on the road to Damascus was an answer to this question: when through Israel, would God gather the nations and bring his rule to the whole world? When Paul met Jesus he realized that the promises of God had been fulfilled, that the expectations of the prophets had been met—but in a most unexpected and extraordinary way.


He knew from his tradition that God, through Israel, would deliver the world from sin, gather the nations, and establish peace and justice everywhere. That was the hope. The usual version of that hope was something like an avenging military/political ruler like Solomon or David, or a great law-giver/leader like Moses.


What Paul saw in Jesus was someone greater than Moses, Solomon, or David—and someone wholly unexpected. God is establishing his justice, his right order, his way, through a crucified and risen criminal, and now returned from the dead? Forgiveness, compassion, nonviolence, having no truck with the ways of death? This is God’s justice, and it judges all of the fallen powers and kingdoms of the world.”


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Joseph Ratzinger

Man is not saved by ideas, but by conversion


The astounding reality of the feast is to realize that Saul’s persecution of the Christians of Damascus is the persecution of Christ Himself: “I am Jesus, and you are persecuting me”? (Acts 9, 1-22). Christ identifies Himself personally with His Church. God has become man so that man could become God (Irenaeus). And further: the personal encounter with the Lord produces a conversion in Saul that goes to the ontological depths of the personality.

Hear Ratzinger: “St. Paul says, ‘I live, no longer I, but Christ lives within me.’ (Gal. 2, 20). This sentence comes at the end of that short spiritual autobiography which Paul works up right  before his readers’ very eyes. He does this, not to gain glory for himself, but to clarify the message which has been entrusted to hi, and he does so by making reference to his own personal hisotoyr as it had been lived with Christ and with the Church. This explanation of his life leads him, wo to dspeak, even further  – from the outside to the inside. First he describes the external events of his vocation and his path through life; then in a single sentence, as clear as a lightning bolt, the inner event that took place during all of this, and is the ground of it all, is made clear. This inner event is at once the same time indicates what is the objective essence of Christianity for each one of us. It would be a weak oversimplification to put it this way: becoming and being a Christian depend on conversion. But that would be headed in the right direction. Yet conversion according to Paul is something much more radical than a mere revision of a few opinions or attitudes. It is a death event. In other words, it is the replacement of the subject – of the ‘I.’ The ‘I’ ceases to be independent and to be a subject existing in itself. It is torn from itself and inserted into a new subject. The ‘I’ does not perish, but must let itself diminish completely, in effect, in order to be received within a larger ‘I’ and, together with that larger ‘I,’ to be conceived anew. [Blogger: of course the new “I” is Christ as will be seen below]

“The basic notion that conversion is the abandonment of the old, isolated subjectivity of the ‘I,’ and the fining of oneself within a new and subjective unity in which the limitations of the former ‘I’ have been surpassed, makes it possible to come into contact with the basis of all truth. This fundamental thought is something we find again, but with new accents, in another passage from the Galatians. Paul pursues the topic and asks whether a person can develop by himself or whether he must let himself be given to himself by the operation of two conflicting imperatives, the law and the promise. Here, Paul vigorously asserts that the promise is made only to an individual. It applies not to a number of isolated individuals, but only to an individual. It applies not to a number of individuals, but only to the individual – ‘the seed of Abraham’ in the singular (Gal. 3, 16).  The promise has been made to one person only, and outside this one person sits the confused world of self-realization in which people compete against one another and want to compete with God, but end up only by dabbling with their own hopes.”

[Blogger: note that the “one individual” is The Christ  – the “One” – ἑ¡s – and that there is only Christ as Heir of the promise to Abraham, and we are all heir in that we become Christ Himself. Hence, all are called as images and baptized to be Ipse Christus]


“But how can the promise be a hope if it can apply only to one person? Paul’s answer is this: ‘You have been baptized in Christ and have clothed yourselves in Christ. There are not more distinctions between Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female, but all of you are one in Christ Jesus. But if you belong to Christ, you are the seed of Abraham and heirs to the promise” (Gal 3, 28),

“It is essential to note that Paul does not say [you are a single mass,’ in some collectivist sense, but ‘ you are one,’ you have become a new subject, unique in Christ, and thus, by means of the fusion of the subject, you are now within the realm of the Promise.”[1]

[This makes sense of St. Josemaria’s experience of being “Ipse Christus” and the unum that is the vocation to be Opus Dei. It is declared in the prayer card: “Grant that I too may turn all the circumstances and events of my life into occasions of loving you, serving the Church, the Roman Pontiff and all souls…”

[1] J. Ratzinger, “The Spiritual Basis and Ecclesial Identity of Theology” in The Nature and Mission of Theology, Ignatius (1955) 51-52.

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