February 2009 - 1 Corinthians 15:10

“But through the grace of God I am what I am, and the grace he has given me has not been without result.” 1 Corinthians 15:10

Saul... tentmaker, Pharisee and persecutor of the Christian Church. After his conversion Saul identified himself as “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus.” Saul’s religious transformation began in his youth. He was born and raised in the city of Tarsus (Acts 21.39) Tarsus was a crossroads of the world, a great trade center on the Mediterranean. It was also a university town filled with young scholars and philosophers. Saul was a devout Jew, “circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee” (Phil. 3:5). He traveled to Jerusalem to study. As a Pharisee, one of the “separated ones,” (Acts 23:6; 26:5; Phil. 3:5) his life dream was to “sit at the feet of Gamaliel” (Acts 22:3), the most distinguished and revered living rabbi in his time.
Growing up in Tarsus as a devout Jew and later sitting at the feet of Gamaliel started Saul on the road to conversion. Paul alludes to this in Galatians 1:15-16: “When he who had set me apart before I was born, and had called me through his grace.”
At one point Saul was resisting ongoing conversion. He became fundamentalist in his approach to followers of the Way of Jesus. The story of Saul continued with the stoning of Stephen (Acts 8:1) and his persecution of the church: “entering into every house, and hauling men and women out, committed them to prison” (Acts 8:3). Even though Gamaliel taught him that God is the One who judges, Saul thought he alone heard the voice of God, he defined himself as pious; he did not hear the cry of the poor.
The striking religious conversion on the road to Damascus Paul attributes to God. “By the grace of God I am what I am.” Donald L. Gelpi, S.J, presents five forms of conversion: affective, intellectual, moral, social political and religious. Religious conversion always results from a Divine intervention. Saul’s religious conversion in Acts 9:1 held the seeds of his “continual conversion.” Paul testified that “the grace he has given me had not been without result.” Gelpi writes “In all five forms of conversion, if those initially converted resist ongoing conversion, they introduce a measure of inauthenticity in their lives.” Paul did not resist ongoing conversion. He was attentive to the need for conversion in every area of his life. Blessed Alberione’s prayers for living in continual conversion correspond to the forms of conversion identified by Gelpi: “Jesus live in our mind, will and heart, that we live in faith working by means of charity. Unite us to You, incarnated sanctity, in whom is the divine life” (Cf. Until Christ be Formed in You, pg. 60).
On the walls of every Pauline chapel the words “live in continual conversion” or “be sorry for sin” are written. The original Latin “Cors poenitens tenete” means to live with a penitent heart. This exhortation to live in continual conversion is a core charismatic principle and belief of Pauline Christian living. Blessed Alberione received these words through revelation in a time of particular difficulty. “While examining all of his actions anew to see if there were impediments to the work of grace on his part, it seemed that the Divine Master wanted to assure the Institute, launched just a few years earlier…. In truth Jesus Master was saying: ‘Do not be afraid; I am with you; From here (the taber-nacle) I want to enlighten. Live with a penitent heart’” (Alberione; Abundantes Divitia Gratiae Suae; 151-152).
Ongoing conversion is at the heart of the Christian and Pauline experience. Jesus himself called for our ongoing conversion as he announced: “The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). That the grace given us will not be without result “the Pauline Family strives to live fully the Gospel of Jesus Christ….A secret of success is to model oneself on God by living in the Church and for the Church; of being wild olives grafted onto the olive tree, the Eucharistic Lord; of reflecting and nourishing oneself with every word of the Gospel, in accord with the spirit of St Paul” (Alberione; Abundantes Divitia Gratiae Suae; 94-95).

LECTIO DIVINA Praying with the Word of God
LECTIO DIVINA Praying with the Word of God
LECTIO DIVINA Praying with the Word of God
LECTIO DIVINA Praying with the Word of God
TRUTH Read 1 Corinthians 15:10 in which Paul presents us with a synopsis of his conversion and his correspondence to this grace. Then read it again silently and slowly. Pay careful attention attending to your inner response.

WAY Meditate on how St. Paul has captured the eternal struggle that we all go through in our call to conversion. “I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing that I hate.” ‘Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:15; 24-25). Blessed Alberione tells us of himself, “Here is a half-blind man, who is being led; and in moving along he is enlightened from time to time, so that he can proceed further: God is the light” (AD 202).

LIFE Pray in the light of this passage. Christ’s redemptive death inaugurates the new creation: “By new creation, Paul means that God in Christ has created humanity anew, giving it newness of life” (Romans 6:4; Fr. Joseph Fitzmyer), a life in union with the risen Christ, “Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20), a life destined to share in the glory of God. After encountering the risen Christ on the road to Damascus Paul uses the expression to be or to live in Christ 164 times. Through baptism the resurrected, glorified Christ truly dwells within us (Galatians 2:20). Through the Holy Spirit Christ brings about our ongoing conversion, the discarding of the old man/woman in order that we might live in Christ according to the new woman/man (Colossians 3:10).

Live in us Jesus, with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, so that we may love you affectively with our whole heart; love you with our whole intellect uniting our mind to yours; love you with our whole will and love our neighbor as ourselves. May we be faithful witnesses to your gospel in our society. Make your grace in us fruitful!

LIVE Act on God’s invitation to you. Paul admitted that he was still on the road to conversion, “I do not consider that I have made it my own, I strain forward to what lies ahead, pressing on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14). What faithful decisions am I called to make today? How do I assume responsibility for my growth and development in one area of human experience? Am I able to accept responsibility for “doing the things I hate” while giving thanks to God for the grace of the indwelling of Christ who transforms my life? Name ways that you continue on this road to conversion in each moment toward fullness of life in Christ. What actions in my life witness to my faith, love and the “hope that is in me?” “With Christ in us we are a new creation!” (2 Corinthians 5:17).