It was Saint Paul more than anyone else who showed what man is and how great is the nobility of our nature, as well as what capacity for virtue this human animal has. Every day he advanced in stature, every day he fought with ever-renewed keenness against the dangers threatening him; he showed this when he said: ‘I forget what lies behind and strain forward to what lies ahead.’ When he was expecting to die he summoned others to share his joy, saying, ‘You also should be glad and rejoice with me.’ Again he actually leaped with joy at the dangers and insults and every dishonour which pressed on him, as he wrote to the Corinthians, ‘I am content with weaknesses, insults, persecutions.’ He called these the weapons of righteousness, showing that from them the greatest benefits are reaped.
Therefore he was always undefeated by his enemies. Everywhere he was beaten, insulted, and reviled. He treated it all as though it were a triumphant procession setting up trophies of victory everywhere on earth, glorying in them, giving thanks to God, saying, ‘Thanks be to God who in Christ always leads us to triumph.’ So he sought dishonour and insults in his preaching of the gospel more readily than we seek honours. He sought death more than we seek life, and poverty more than we seek riches; and he looked for work to do more than others look for rest. It was not simply that he looked for more, he looked for much more.
There was one thing, and one thing only that he feared and shunned, and that was to give offence to God. Just as there was one thing he longed for, to please God.
He was rich with the love of Christ which was the greatest of all things to him. While he had this, he reckoned himself the most blessed of men. Without it he had no wish to be numbered among princes and rulers and powers. Possessing love he wished to be among the lowliest of men, among those being chastised, rather than without love to be among the loftiest and honoured. There was one torment for him, to fall away from this love. That for him was hell, that was damnation. That was the sum of all evils.
Even so to find this love was joy. This to him was life, it was the whole world, his angel, things present, things to come, the kingdom and the promise. This was the sum of all blessings. Anything else which was not concerned with this he regarded neither as painful nor as pleasant. Things visible he considered of no more worth than withered grass. Tyrants or peoples breathing fury seemed to him like gnats. Death, torture, and a thousand torments he thought of as child’s play, provided only he could endure something for Christ’s sake
A reading from a homily by St John Chrysostom Hom 2 on St Paul.
It says in the Bible Alive for 25 January: ‘At the very heart of everything that Paul wrote and did was his lucid and clear understanding of what happened to him on the road to Damascus’. Everyone has this moment of conversion when we were going one way and we turned and went another. Why? It says in the Catechism of the Catholic Church 1428 that it is a movement of a “contrite heart,” drawn and moved by grace to respond to the merciful love of God who loved us first. It happened to me. It happens to you. That moment should be nurtured, remembered, and dwelt on often as Paul could not be separated from that moment he met Jesus.