The Catholic Defender: The Conversion Of St. Paul
The Ministry of Zephaniah took place during the reign of Josiah (640-609 B.C.) He is speaking out against the worship of the false gods.
The people were worshiping the sun, moon, and stars.
Through the influence of the Assyrians, the god “Milcom” of the Ammonites was worshiped in Israel.
“Seek the Lord, all you humble of the earth, who have observed his law; seek justice, seek humility; perhaps you may be sheltered on the day of the Lord’s anger. But I will leave as a remnant in your midst a people humble and lowly, who shall take refuge in the name of the Lord: the remnant of Israel. They shall do no wrong and speak no lies; nor shall there be found in their mouths a deceitful tongue; they shall pasture and couch their flocks with none to disturb them”(Zephaniah 2:3, 3:12-13).
We are to seek the Lord through his Church! Jesus said “As the Father has sent me, so I send you” (John 20:21). Luke 10:16 Jesus says, “Whoever listens to you listens to me. Whoever rejects you rejects me. And whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me”.
Jesus identifies himself totally to his Church, Acts 9:1-9 states, “Saul, still breathing murderous threats against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, that,if he should find any men or women who belonged to the Way, he might bring them back to Jerusalem in chains. On his journey, as he was nearing Damascus, a light from the sky suddenly flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” He said, “Who are you, sir?” The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. Now get up and go into the city and you will be told what you must do.” The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, for they heard the voice but could see no one. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him to Damascus. For three days he was unable to see, and he neither ate nor drank.”
What was Saul told to do? Acts 9:10-19 tells the story: “There was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias, and the Lord said to him in a vision, ‘Ananias’. He answered, ‘Here I am, Lord’. The Lord said to him, ‘Get up and go to the street called Straight and ask at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus named Saul. He is there praying, and in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him, that he may regain his sight’. But Ananias replied, ‘Lord, I have heard from many sources about this man, what evil things he has done to your holy ones in Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to imprison all who call upon your name’. But the Lord said to him, ‘Go, for this man is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles, kings, and Israelites, and I will show him what he will have to suffer for my name’. So Ananias went and entered the house; laying his hands on him, he said, ‘Saul, my brother, the Lord has sent me, Jesus who appeared to you on the way by which you came, that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit’. Immediately things like scales fell from his eyes and he regained his sight. He got up and was baptized, and when he had eaten, he recovered his strength”.
We are to seek the Lord with a humble heart as the Prophet Zephaniah proclaimed. St. Paul was knocked off his “high-horse” and brought low so that he would be made humble for the service of the Lord.
Jesus said Saul would be sent to reach out primarily to the Gentiles. Jesus teaching giving us the Beatitudes: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they who morn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3-10).
A great question might be asked how does Christ voice through his Church remain perfect despite the fact that we many times do not fully live up to our teachings? Zephaniah says that The Church would do no wrong, speak no lies, no deceit is to be found, the flocks would be protected.
Yet, we have seen scandals, we have all fallen short, what can we take from this? The Church does not belong to the Pope, the Bishops in union with him, all the people of God. It belongs to Christ. It is Christ Church. We are his people.
It is the offices Christ established in the Church that gives it the foundation. Jesus commissioned the Church to go to all the nations teaching them his commands.
He administers his grace through his Church. It is the Holy Spirit that keeps the voice straight and free from falsehoods. Being faithful to the Church, we are taking “refuge in the name of the Lord”.
By listening to the Church, we are listening to the voice of the Lord, “Thus saith the Lord”!
Consider Malachi 1:11, “For from the rising of the sun, even to it’s setting, my name is great among the nations”.
The Catholic Church is sent by Christ to go to all the nations administering God’s grace through the Sacraments “everywhere they bring sacrifice to my name, and a pure offering”!