Conversion is an encounter

January 25, 2018
Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul, Apostle
The Gospel Today
Mark 16:15-18

Jesus appeared to the Eleven and said to them:
“Go into the whole world
and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.
Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved;
whoever does not believe will be condemned.
These signs will accompany those who believe:
in my name they will drive out demons,
they will speak new languages.
They will pick up serpents with their hands,
and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them.
They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

Reflection (Sem. Edgar R. Calma)

My mother is a stroke patient for 20 years at the age of 88. One of the challenging experiences in taking care of my mother is her regular check-ups every three months. Due to the distance of her cardiologist from our residence, It was very tedious and taxing for not only for us but more so for her. There was a time that we were tempted to look for another doctor who could take-over the regular check-ups, but it was easier said than done, because of the personal approach, medical history treatment that her doctor and my mother had over the years. Transferring to another cardiologist with the advantage of distance from our residence would be good but would not compensate the benefits that the doctor can extend and offer to my mother. Because, healing entails an encounter. This is also true with conversion.

Today, we celebrate the conversion of St. Paul, one of the great pillars of our Christian faith. St. Paul is very well known to be the apostle to the Gentiles through his various missionary journeys. The conversion of St. Paul would be lacking if we only see it as a single event. “On that journey as I drew near to Damascus, about noon a great light from the sky suddenly shone around me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? I replied, Who are you sir?… I am Jesus the Nazorean whom you are persecuting” Acts:22:6-8. The conversion story is very striking because it is very much related with the Gospel narrative. Because to fulfill the mandate of Christ and become agents of evangelization, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature…drive out demons, speak new languages, pick up serpents, lay hands on the sick and will recover” cf Mk 16:15-18, will entail inner conversion rooted in our intimate encounter with our Lord Jesus Christ. It is not always an immediate thing. It is a process in our story of conversion, just like St. Paul, who became blind, then eventual regained his sight that marks his intimate encounter with Jesus which was deepened and sustained in his daily encounter and witnessing with the Risen Christ.

Healing was not an immediate thing. When Jesus healed a person there was a personal encounter happening. It entailed a process of knowing and a personal way of asking, “Who are you, sir?…”I am Jesus the Nazorean.” We all have our own conversion story which is truly personal and very dear to each one of us. It is a process and an encounter because it drives us to really commit and fully dedicate ourselves in following the Lord. My encounter with Him is not a one-time experience. It is a daily experience of both pain and happiness in the most ordinary way. Moreover, the healing process and my personal encounter leads me to be more reflective, patient, and driven to trust and embrace God’s most Holy Will.

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