Before his conversion, St. Paul was not a popular man among the Christians:
Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. And I was unknown personally to the churches of Judea that are in Christ; they only kept hearing that “the one who once was persecuting us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” So they glorified God because of me. -Galatians 1:21-24, NAB
Due to his many writings that comprise a large portion of the New Testament, St. Paul is one of the most famous Christians of all time. But he was not always this famous; originally, he was infamous for his persecution of early Christians. It was not until his conversion that his life turned around.
St. Paul tells us that he was not known “personally” by the churches of Judea. In other words, they did not know him as a man or as a friend. All they knew about him is that he , at one time, persecuted other Christians for their beliefs.
Because of St. Paul’s past, those in Judea could have feared him. Was his conversion genuine? What if he went back to his old ways? Could he really be trusted? Yet they chose to recognize how God was working in his life They couldn’t place their trust in him, but they could easily place their trust in God.
Today’s verse, believe it or not, reminds me of myself. At one time, I mocked and laughed at Catholic beliefs. I didn’t necessarily persecute Catholics physically like St. Paul, but I did attack them with my words. My Catholic friends and family must have been shocked, to say the least, that I made the choice to become Catholic. They probably have some of the same questions about my conversion story.
You may be in the same situation. I have heard plenty of conversion stories that tell of some major transformations – atheist to Christian, Protestant to Catholic, Catholic to Protestant and back to Catholic again. And you may have been one of the many people outside the Church, those who do not understand us, that persecute us for our beliefs. But that is the past. What matters now is the work Christ is doing in your life today.
At times, it may be difficult to accept someone’s conversion story. It’s hard to believe that they had the power to change. Luckily, we don’t necessarily have to. We just need to accept and believe in a God that can work miracles in people’s lives. Now, that is something worth believing in, and it can happen in your life too.
After giving his life over to Christ, St. Paul’s life completely changed. He went from being infamous for his persecution of early Christians to famous for the strength of his Christian faith. God can work the same miracle in your life. All you need to do is ask.