I will be attending the Diocesan Convention of the Diocese of Newark tomorrow and Saturday, so I'm taking the opportunity now to post my entry on tomorrow's Major Feast.
Tomorrow the church remembers the event that launched the Apostle Paul on his great missionary enterprise: his conversion on the road to Damascus. It's so important that it, along with Peter's dream of eating unclean foods, is recounted twice in the Acts of the Apostles. And clearly Christianity would not be what it is today if it had not been for St. Paul. Perhaps more than any other apostle, he was instrumental in the spread of Christianity outside Judea. He was the one, after all, who argued forcefully that Gentiles - anyone who was not Jewish - did not have to become circumsized, i.e., become Jews, before becoming Christians. The whole agenda of the Council of Jerusalem recounted in Acts 15 is about this, and as we know, it was there that the decision was collectively made not to require circumcision. That first council's decision was momentous, because it's quite possible that otherwise, Christianity might well have died away as just another Jewish sect. It was the force of the Gospel itself that converted Saul from his belief in the power of the Law (he was a Pharisee, after all, and they generally believed that rigourous attention to the Law in all its particulars would bring salvation) and to the power of Grace in Jesus. And it's Paul's explication of Jesus as God's free gift - as unearned Grace - that has been a central tenet of Christianity ever since.
O God, by the preaching of your apostle Paul you have caused the light of the Gospel to shine throughout the world: Grant, we pray, that we, having his wonderful conversion in remembrance, may show ourselves thankful to you by following his holy teaching; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.